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August 15, 2008

Gnomic Verses
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:27 AM *

My father had some words of advice for me, and now I pass them on to you:

  1. Once you have a car you never have any money ever again.
  2. Go first class or go steerage.
  3. Never drink rotgut.
Comments on Gnomic Verses:
#1 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 10:36 AM:

3. is pure, distilled wisdom.
1. is perhaps not nearly so universal, these days.
2....ahh, what I wouldn't do...

My own father, though in certain circumstances known for earthiness of words, is far too large to ever be called gnomic. I feel I have missed out, a bit.

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 10:56 AM:

From my mother:

1. Always buy the best tool you can afford.
2. Take care of your truck, and your truck will take care of you.
3. To love is never a sin, or a waste. What you do about that love is another matter.
4. Wake me when the lifeguards come.

#4 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 10:57 AM:

My favorite 'Words from my Father' would have to be;


Sky Masterson: When I was a young man about to go out into the world, my father says to me a very valuable thing. He says to me like this... "Son," the old guy says, "I am sorry that I am not able to bank roll you to a very large start, but not having any potatoes which to give you, I am now going to stake you to some very valuable advice. One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to come to you and show you a nice, brand new deck of cards on which the seal has not yet been broken. This man is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. Now son, do not bet this man, for as sure as you stand there, you are going to wind up with an earful of cider."

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 10:58 AM:

1. If you think you won't need that tool, you will need that tool.
2. It's better to ask stupid questions than to make stupid assumptions.

#6 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:04 AM:

1. (From Dad) Money doesn't grow on trees.
1 (a) (From his tenure as town supervisor) "We can't afford it."

2. (From Mom) Just remember: Mother said there'd be Days Like This.

3. (Both of them) "GT, Phone home."

#7 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:07 AM:

1. Telling the truth is important. (Mom)
2. Making the truth interesting is important. (Dad)
3. Just because it's not a fact doesn't mean it's not true. (Dad)
4. All problems can be solved by artillery, office supplies, or a large enough plastic bag. (Joe)

#8 ::: Michael C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:16 AM:

From my grandfather:
1. Never sit with your back to an open door.
2. Your first million you gotta steal.

#9 ::: Shinydan Howells ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:17 AM:

Only one, from my uncle Peter.

Never stop asking questions.

Considering he actually turned out to be my greatuncle Peter, I suspect there was some premeditation involved, but it's good advice anyway.

#10 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:21 AM:

#4 - That's the wisdom I was sent into the world with as well.

That, and my father's own motto: "Stay a while and see injustice done." Gnomic indeed.

#11 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:25 AM:

My dad, an Air Force sergeant and life support specialist, always told us "Keep your feet clean." Seemed to fit any occasion.

#12 ::: John League ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:31 AM:

The fastest solution to most problems is a judicious application of force. This is good and bad. --Dad

#13 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:35 AM:

To all you young dinosaurs: be discreet if you don't want your personal lives written about on Making Light.

#14 ::: Remus Shepherd ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:36 AM:

1. Remember you always have the option of blowing your own brains out.
(Delivered by my uncle, on the occasion of my announcing that I was engaged to be married.)

2. No one messes with a man in a black cowboy hat.
(My father, who wears his hat everywhere.)

That's all I can think of. Not a very quotable bunch, my family, and they had very little generally-applicable advice.

#15 ::: Wymarc ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:52 AM:

My favorite, and words I lived by throughout my military career was from Admiral Grace Hopper:

"If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it. It's much easier to apologize than it is to get permission. "

#16 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:54 AM:

No man with a good car needs to be justified.

And I'll tell you why

Where you come from, is gone.
Where you thought you were going to? Weren't never there.
And where you are ain't no good unless you can get away from it.

#17 ::: Jon Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:55 AM:

I am reminded of: "My old man taught me two things: Always cut cards and stay out of politics."

#18 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:57 AM:

"If you can't think what to buy a woman as a gift, buy her a scarf. It's impossible to buy one in the wrong size, and it's not like she's going to say 'A scarf? But I already have a scarf'" - Ajay pere

"He kens muckle wha kens when tae speak, but he kens mair wha kens when tae haud his tongue" - Ajay grandpere

"Well, if you only went out when it wasn't raining, you'd never go anywhere at all" - Ajay mere

#19 ::: Mimi ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:58 AM:

From my grandfather:

1) Never mix alcohol and sugar.

2) Hang on to your investments.

I don't always pay attention to #1 (who wants to pass up a mojito?), but since he's now 96 and living off huge dividends from a life insurance policy he bought as a young man, I fully support #2. Shame I don't have any investments.

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:59 AM:

"The central message of Buddhism is not 'Every man for himself'."
- from A Fish Called Wanda.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:01 PM:

"Don't worry about tomorrow because, tomorrow, tomorrow will be today."
- Woody Woodpecker.

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:05 PM:

from my mother:
Never vote for someone who describes themself as an 'educator'.

(Note that this is not helpful when your choice is between two of them.)

#23 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:07 PM:

Oh yeah:
from my father:
Not everything worth doing, is worth doing well.

#24 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:11 PM:

Oh yeah:
from my father:
Not everything worth doing, is worth doing well.

#25 ::: Vef ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:15 PM:

Vef, aged 17: "I just read this old Chinese saying in this book: "Sit by the riverbank long enough, and you will see the body of your enemy float by." What do you think of that?"

Vef's dad: "There's an old Irish saying. "Eat more potatoes. Before the English come and kill us all.""

#26 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:18 PM:

1 You can't over-engineer tools
2 Change is the only constant
3 If you can run, run; if you can talk, talk; if you can't run and you can't talk, don't mess about.

#27 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:29 PM:

1) from Mom: Always do your crossword puzzles in ink. It makes you think about what you're doing.

2) from Dad: Don't bother me with your reason, logic, or common sense. I'm being creative.

#28 ::: Alina ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:33 PM:

Mum always stuck with "Don't spit on people." It's served me well so far.

#29 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:41 PM:

From Dad: Don't steal small.

#30 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:41 PM:

My father, teaching me to drive: "Everyone drives by habit, not by paying attention. This includes me. So get the habits right now."

Also, when I did something with the car which was not dangerous but which was not obviously *non*-dangerous to others: "Don't do that; it's impolite." That may have been the first time I actually grasped the concept of politeness. It's certainly how I structure it now.

What I remember my mother telling me, mostly, was "Stop playing those stupid beep-beep games and do your homework." (Or chores.) I think, if she had lived to see me as an adult -- and read my Wikipedia entry -- she would have understood my priorities better.

#31 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:44 PM:

> My father, teaching me to drive: "Everyone drives by habit, not by paying attention. This includes me."

Actually I should include the previous line, which was: "I'll tell you what my dad told me when I was learning to drive..."

I do not hold the ambition of having kids myself, so you all get to be memetic carriers. Go forth.

#32 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:44 PM:

Two from my mum:

(1) A new experience is never a waste of time
(2) There is never any excuse to be rude

Although (2) dates from an age before telemarketers.

#33 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:44 PM:

As per my grandfather: "Keep your nose clean."

Note that he was in the excavation business in Brooklyn, and his personal ethics were admirable.

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:49 PM:

Lex Luthor: Miss Teschmacher, when I was six years old my father said to me...
Miss Teschmacher: "Get out."
Lex Luthor: Ha ha. Before that. He said, "Son, stocks may rise and fall, utilities and transportation systems may collapse. People are no damn good, but they will always need land and they'll pay through the nose to get it! Remember," my father said...
Otis: "... land."

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:51 PM:

"Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien"
(Better is the enemy of Good.)

#36 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:54 PM:

From my father: "So long as you're not hurting anyone, 'just for fun' is a perfectly valid reason for doing anything."

From my mother: "Make your bed first thing in the morning after you get out of it, or you'll never make it at all."

#37 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 12:55 PM:

Serge @ 35 - I used to work for someone (whom I greatly admire) who used to say it this way:

"Don't let the best get in the way of the good."

#38 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:01 PM:

(1) No injected drugs
(2) No playing Bridge

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:09 PM:

Larry Brennan @ 37... Since 'mieux' can also be translated 'the best', you confirmed that the expression does exist in English.

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:10 PM:

"There are three ways to do this: the Right Way, the Wrong Way, and the Navy Way."
- from one of John Hemry's JAG-in-space novels.

#41 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:10 PM:

A couple from my mom:

You have to take care of yourself and your family, because no one else will do it for you.

It doesn't have to be perfect. Just do your best.

And a favorite, source unknown:

Life is short; eat dessert first. :)

#42 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:16 PM:

A companion to Uncle Jim's permission to write badly, from an elder at my Quaker Meeting: "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly."

And two from motorcycle training:
1. You will go where you're looking, so look where you're going. Never stare at problems; always keep your eyes on the safe way 'round them.

2. Keep the rubber side down.

#43 ::: Tucker ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:20 PM:

DUCKMAN: I ever tell you the last thing my father said to me?
CORNFED: Mmm. . . "Careful, son, I don't think the safety's on?"
DUCKMAN: Before that!

* * *

Serge@40: "There are three ways to do things: the right way, the Army way, and my way. . . we will do things MY WAY." --Robert Asprin

#44 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:22 PM:

My dad had a sign on the door of his office: "Blessed is he who, having nothing to say, refrains from giving wordy evidence of that fact."

He also had one that said "I'm not hard of hearing/I'm ignoring you" but the less said about that the better.

#45 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:23 PM:

From my mom:
Advice on driving -- (1) Always let the idiots get ahead of you; (2) Don't brake on a curve or pass on a hill.

General -- This too shall pass.

#46 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:32 PM:

From Warren Ellis, of all places -

"Evolve or Die"

(similar observations can be found in many languages, including the native Klingonaase -

Tel Komerex, Khesterex (That which does not grow, dies)

hmmm.... it never occurred to me before this - is Ellis a John Ford fan?

#47 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:46 PM:

One of the few pieces of my mother's advice which actually made sense: "Never leave a job in such a way that you'd be ashamed to go back and apply there again." (There are exceptions to this, but I still think the general principle is sound.)

And a great piece of wisdom from Babylon 5:

"I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. But then I realized, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us came because we actually deserved them? So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the Universe."

#48 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:49 PM:

I'm sure my parents gave me great advice. I just can't remember any of it right now. The only thing that comes to mind is:

When I was learning how to drive, my Dad wanted me to steer towards the middle of the street rather than stay at the side. His rationale was this: cars rushing at me on the other side of the street will get out of my way, but parked cars on my side can't move.

I've never followed it because it's not actually very good driving advice. I mean, in the typical case, you can leave some distance between your car and the parked cars and yet still stay on your own side of the street. I figured maybe his words had some sort of deep metaphorical significance. However, I've never been able to find it.

#15: The corollary is that when it comes time to apologize, just do it. (None of those passive-aggressive apologies.)

#49 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:50 PM:

When I graduated 8th grade, my grandfather gave me the best advice he as ever given, and the best advice I ever received:

"Listen to all the advice people give you. Then go and do what you think is right."

#50 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:52 PM:

"You know," said Arthur, "it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, about to die of asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young."

"Why, what did she tell you?"

"I don't know, I didn't listen."

#51 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:52 PM:

Serge (40) - I was in the Army, which has the same saying (right way, wrong way, insert-appropriate-authority-here way); and the official, or by-the-book way has the virtues that everybody knows it (or should) and everybody can expect it. In other words, standards are good. Decades of experience with hardware and software have convinced me that this is "true enough for government work". Though, as Admiral Hopper implied, the good may be the enemy of the better. Also, the saying involving problems and sufficient amounts of high explosives ("If you have a lot of high explosives, every problem looks like...") may sometimes lead to sub-optimal solutions.

#52 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:54 PM:

My father gave me a lot of advice, much of which was either bad, or which he ignored himself, but he left me one piece that's been useful:
"If you want to be happy for the third of your life you spend at work, find a job that pays you twice as much as you need to live on, and which you enjoy so much you would do it for half as much as you need to live on."

#53 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:57 PM:

Some years ago, my then-boss reminded me:

"Don't force it; use a bigger hammer."

#54 ::: Noelle ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 01:57 PM:

I only remember a couple of things from my mother, and the one I heard the most was:

"If you'd get your nose out of that book and pay attention you'd know what was going on." This advice has held true for most of my life. Unfortunately, I still have trouble following it.

Her other, more profound, advice was: "You only get so many second chances."

Profound advice from my father: "Always take care of your teeth."

#55 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 02:03 PM:

Annalee @ 42, I learned your last item as:

"Keep the shiny side up."

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 02:30 PM:

"The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain."
- Montgomery Scott

#57 ::: Ruth ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 02:32 PM:

Ooh, great thread!

My dad always says "Don't take any wooden nickels" and "Don't do [action] like I do/did."

He used to say "I'm throwing you out of the house as soon as you turn 18" but now that my sister and I are both past that age, he just says "You're out of the will!"*

*a joke

#58 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 02:41 PM:

"Raise him to be a death ray repairman." -- beatnik patron of my grandparents' restaurant, to my parents, RE me.

#59 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 02:43 PM:

Father Bill Toohey, my first week at Notre Dame:

"Don't let your classes interfere with your education."

#60 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 02:48 PM:

From flying:

"Keep the blue side up."
"Aviate, Navigate, Communicate" in order of importance.

#61 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 02:50 PM:

Father Toohey was paraphrasing Twain:
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."

#62 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 02:54 PM:

"Look both ways before crossing a street"

"Always look a gift horse in the mouth" (I did, and declined the offer of a wonderful horse that I had neither the money or dedication to support)

my personal variant on a common snark:
"There is no problem with a computer that cannot be solved by a suitable application of high explosive"

#63 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 02:55 PM:

According to legend, someone was pestering authors for quotes, in order to compile a book of advice. Larry Niven's response:

"The best advice I was ever given was on my twenty-first birthday, when my father said, 'Son, here's a million dollars. Don't lose it.'"

#64 ::: Mary AIleen ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 03:11 PM:

From my mother: "Take an umbrella."

#65 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 03:14 PM:

John Houghton @60: I am reminded of the advice that used to be on http://safecopter.arc.nasa.gov/:

Basic Flying Rules:
1. Try to stay in the middle of the air.
2. Do not go near the edges of it.
3. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.

#66 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 03:15 PM:

Grampa: "A bull can make money, and a bear can make money, but a pig'll lose money every single time." The other side of a bit quoted by several people earlier, "If something's worth doing, it's worth doing right." Often heard at poker, but generally applicable: "Dollar waiting on a nickel!"

Mom: from some old west dude, "Never eat at a place called "Mom's", never play poker with a man named "Doc", and never sleep with someone's got more troubles than you do." From Napoleon, "If you get a choice between smart and lucky, choose lucky."

Dad: "Quarter-inch drop per foot, hot on the left." (two basics of plumbing, first for sewage flow, second for setting up faucets.)

#67 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 03:23 PM:

From flying as well -

"If you have to do an emergency landing at night, pick your best glide speed as usual. When you get close enough to the ground, turn on your landing light. If you like what you see, go ahead and land. If you don't like what you see, turn off the light."

#68 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 03:28 PM:

In #66 Madeline F writes:

Mom: from some old west dude, "Never eat at a place called "Mom's", never play poker with a man named "Doc", and never sleep with someone's got more troubles than you do."

I've been wondering when this was going to come up. Nelson Algren.

John Houghton #61: Mark Twain, eh? Then let's give Father Bill credit for knowing when to quote Twain to a young man who needs to hear his words...

#69 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Learned from living rural:

If you can't fix it with baling wire, duct tape, WW40 and/or application of brute force, it's probably gonna be expensive to fix.

From my father:

Don't be afraid to spend your money on things you enjoy. And buy the best quality you can afford when buying things. (Tools, appliances, etc.)


-- Leva

#70 ::: CJColucci ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 03:34 PM:

Mark Twain: "When in doubt, always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

#71 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 03:46 PM:

never sleep with someone's got more troubles than you do

Or "Never sleep with anyone crazier than you."

Of course, if everyone followed that strictly, we'd mostly be pretty lonely.

#72 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 03:49 PM:

Bill Higgins @63 -

Someone did that memorable-quote-pester thing to paleontologist Robert Bakker about tyrannosaurs; what they got was "testicles the size of pumpkins".

Which is certainly memorable...

#73 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 03:58 PM:

"Look after the universe for me; I've put a lot of work into it."
- the Doctor

#74 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 04:00 PM:

My mom wasn't big on wise advice. But she did have a very important answer to most of life's questions.

"No, I don't, but if you hum a few bars I can fake it."

Looking back on what parts of my life have passed, I see that it was fundamental to my nature. Though, quite possibly everybody's.

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 04:13 PM:

"Only God is perfect."
- the one good piece of advice I ever got from a priest

#76 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 04:16 PM:

Serge 75: An old boss of mine used to put that this way: "There was only one person who was ever perfect—and they crucified Him!"

Best boss I ever had.

#77 ::: Thalia ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 04:17 PM:

From my great uncle (who died at age 99 because he was hit by a car): Don't wait until you're too old to enjoy it.
He spent 40 years traveling around the world after he retired. He retired relatively young, so he'd still enjoy traveling.

My mother: If all your friends jump of a bridge, you should still look down and evaluate how deep the water is.

My mother further: There is lies, damn lies, and statistics. I should know. (she's a mathematician)

My father: Turn of power at the breaker before you touch that! (he's the engineer)

My father further: Only buy a tool if you really do need it, and then buy the best one you can afford.

And from a friend, who was quoting something famous I'm sure: Engage brain before opening mouth.

#78 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 04:36 PM:

From my father the career Navy officer:

1. "Whatever you're doing, Lieutenant, do it faster."

2. To his son: "You do what you think best; I'm sure you'll do the right thing."

#79 ::: Julian Black ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 04:42 PM:

From my mom:
1) Trust your gut; people will lie to you, but it never will.
2) Never let anyone else tell you what you need in order to be happy.
3) Enjoy being young, but don't cling to it; getting older and having your looks go to hell frees you up to do more important things.

From my dad:
1) To hell with small, safe goals; any worthwhile goal should simultaneously make your heart leap with joy and scare the shit out of you.
2) Never feel guilty about paying other people to do tasks you dislike if it gives you more time to do what you're best at. Don't subordinate your skill and passion to needless drudgery.
3) It's just money; you can always make more.

#80 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 04:49 PM:

From my mother:

(1)Always ask politely for things, and people will give them to you.

(2) Quen da consellos non da codellos.

From my father:

(1) What you mean 'good ol' days'? Dem was neva good.

(2) Always have some money in your pocket to keep the devil out.

(3) Never volunteer.

(4) Don't lisp.

(5) If you put a fool in a mortar an' poun' him, him come out same fool.

(6) Don't write poetry, write short stories.

(7) Don't talk on the radio, people are listening to you.

#81 ::: Lighthill ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 04:52 PM:

From my dad: "There's no shame in having no money. But all other things being equal, having money is a better idea than not."

From my dad: "At your age, you're too young for sex, but there are lots of fun things you can do above the waist."

From my mom: "Stir pots from the bottom, cook pasta al dente, and never use tomato sauce from the store."

From my mom: "My mom gave me lots of advice that I ignored. Just be a good person."

From my great-grandmother: "It's not like in the old days, dear! Nowadays you should marry anybody you want, even if she isn't an Italian!"

From my grandfather: "No-smoking signs apply to illiterates, too."

From Dilbert: "Maybe for your first crime you shouldn't write your name and address on it and send it to several thousand people."

From Donald Knuth: "Premature optimization is the root of all evil in programming."

From I-forget-where: "Don't be the bouncer at someone else's club." (Meaning, don't get into arguments about whether other people are conforming to declared value systems that you yourself do not hold.)

From someone teaching me unix: Adding your own subdirectory to /usr/ is like insisting that your name be written in all-caps and never spoken aloud.

From experience: Your gender, race, sexual orientation, or relationship preferences are not the most interesting thing about you unless you are one of the first dozeon or so people with them. If somebody else's gender, race, appearance, sexual orientation, or relationship preferences are the most interesting thing you know about them, you may want to get to know them a bit better before hitting on them them.

From experience: When software users say "I didn't change anything", what they really mean is "I didn't change anything whose purpose I understand."

From Tom Lehrer: "Don't write naughty words on walls if you can't spell."

#82 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 04:57 PM:

From my dad:

Money is a tool, not an end in itself.

You are in control of the car. (Mantra to be repeated when someone driving behind/around you is trying to force you to do something unsafe for their convenience.)

Do your best, and that's the best you can do. (Incantation against perfectionism.)

Learn something new every day. (He used to tell me this when I was small, in elementary school. Little me asked "Do you still learn things at work?" and he laughed and said "Oh yes, I learn lots of things every day at work!" I didn't believe him -- surely grownups had learned everything once they finished school!)

#83 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 05:02 PM:

From my grandmother, quoting I know not who:

Do not compare yourself with others, lest you grow vain or bitter; the race is long, and sooner or later you realize it's only with yourself.

#84 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 05:06 PM:

From my parents, in my adolescence when I was having a crisis of faith:

"Better that you learn to think for yourself than learn to agree with us."

It's proven a great comfort during many a religious (or political) disagreement with them since.

#85 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 05:10 PM:

We all know Satchel Paige's Rules for Staying Young, right?

1. "Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood."
2. "If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts."
3. "Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move."
4. "Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society — the social ramble ain't restful."
5. "Avoid running at all times."
6. "And don't look back — something might be gaining on you."

#86 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 05:10 PM:

from the minister of the church we went to when I was much younger:
"When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot in it."

#87 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 05:16 PM:

From Dad: You were looking for a job when you found the one you have now.

Also from Dad: You won't be disappointed if you buy the best.

Yet another: Money won't buy you happiness, but it sure makes things easier.

And another: Why make money if not to spend it?

Not too many other direct things I remember from my parents, but lots of things obviously seeped in over time, stuff like: share, be tolerant, be patient, etc.

One falsehood from both: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

#88 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 05:42 PM:

cajunfj40: I'd call that last one a half-truth, rather than an outright falsehood—but only because sticks and stones really may break your bones.

#89 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 05:58 PM:

The Internet seldom forgets -- and never forgets what you'd most like to see gone.

#90 ::: Eric K ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 06:07 PM:

Heard from a retired naval aviator: "The three most useless things in the world are (1) the runway behind you, (2) the altitude above you, and (3) the fumes of gas in your tank."

#91 ::: Laurie ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 06:07 PM:

from my father:

1. French for diplomacy, German for science and commerce.

2. Know enough of the local language to eat, drink, find the bathroom and tell a joke.

3.If anyone asks, you're Canadian.

4.When the shooting starts, head for the British Embassy.

#92 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 06:15 PM:

Laurie @ 91... French for diplomacy

A diplomat, that's definitely me.

#93 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 06:15 PM:

And now, some of my own invention!

- Zarf's law of Usenet apologies: Anyone who says 'Sorry, couldn't resist' has just lied to you twice.

(This is not an uncommon sentiment, but I tossed it out in 1995 when I was leaving CMU and I thought I might never post to Usenet again. HAR HAR HAR.)

- Zarf's law of Internet organization: That's great! How about three of them?

(Less gnomic: Before trying to organize any group, site, or effort, imagine two other people start trying to do the same thing, independently. And one of them is smarter than you. If your instinctive response is "Awesome!", your plan is good. If your response is "But then my plan is ruined!", give it up right now.)

- Lemma to the above: The "two others" may be your two current best friends after next year's screaming argument. Work *today* to ensure that your response *then* will be "It will be awesome if that asshole succeeds without me."

#94 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 06:29 PM:

One that came from me: The larger and more complex the organization, the more your job is defined by what you may not do.

#95 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 06:30 PM:

My dad was fond of:
"Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

#96 ::: AlyxL ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 06:30 PM:

Dad was fond of quoting

"If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft
And from thy slender store two loaves alone are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul."

I used to think it was from Fitzgerald's version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which he also quoted and knew by heart, but searching for it just now I discover it is by one Muslihuddin Shah. The only original advice I can remember from him is "never drink anything blue" and "don't always buy the same newspaper because you'll end up believing them".

#97 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 06:47 PM:

from grandpa:

1. mix your metaphors and people will pay attention when you talk.
2. i've been rich and i've been poor. rich is better. (yes, i know that one didn't originate with him.)

he never gave this to us as advice, but he also likes to repeat this saying from the ghetto: "sleep fast, we need your sheet for a tablecloth."

#98 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 07:16 PM:

A few years ago I took a couple of cross-country mountain flying lessons. The instructor had much to say about now-deceased pilots who hadn't been able to tell the difference between mountains and air. Also now-deceased pilots who had trusted that they could power out of a dead-end canyon. But the thing he said that sticks with me is, "If you ever have to do an emergency landing over this kind of ground--" points down at mountain, forest, one or two tiny squiggly roads-- "aim for the deciduous trees. In winter, they'll be the brown bits."

I hope I'm remembering that correctly. Would be a shame if he'd actually said to aim for the conifers.

He also said that in such situations it's better to accidentally start a forest fire than to not be visible to Search & Rescue.

--

At our handfasting, each of our parents and grandparents came up to the altar to tie a knot in the handfasting cord and give us a piece of advise. (The priestess's idea, and a good one. I point-blank refused to allow anyone to "give the bride away"--Not! Property! Dammit!--but omitting that would have left no role for parents in the ritual. Hence this.) My father's words of wisdom were simply this: "Listen to your mother." Unfortunately, I can't remember what it was my mother had said that he was referring to. Taking it generally, though, it's good advice. Most of the time, at least.

#99 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 07:25 PM:

Brooks Moses (65):

Basic Flying Rules:
1. Try to stay in the middle of the air.
2. Do not go near the edges of it.
3. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.

I think that needs to be canonized as Ezekiel's law (Ezekiel saw the wheel way up in the middle of the air)

#100 ::: Alice Bentley ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 07:26 PM:

My family had two guiding principles that help launch us into many ambitious projects (much to the dismay of our neighbors and friends):

"How hard could it be?"

"What's the worst that could happen?"

The second was often followed by speculation that would horrify our audience, but only seemed to encourage us.

#101 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 07:27 PM:

From Mom: Listen, pay attention, and do the best you can.
From Dad: You burn your ass, you sit on the scab.

Not life advice per se, but still good: What's one more? (Usually after my asking can I bring _____ to Easter/Christmas/Thanksgiving/Other random get together.) They've unoffically adopted several children that way.

#102 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 07:30 PM:

If brute force isn't working, you're not using enough of it.

#103 ::: Megan Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 07:31 PM:

From my mother -- "Never share food with your father."

And from my grandmother, gnomic indeed -- "Pull up your socks, America!"

#104 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 07:43 PM:

"Just because you know the right answer doesn't mean they want to hear the right answer"

#105 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 07:48 PM:

Dad Wren: Listen to your mother.

Mom Wren: The one bit of advice I remember (and am willing to share - the rest was rather personal) was given to me before I went away to college. It went something like this: "I'm going to give you the same advice my father gave to me and my sisters before I went to college. If anything goes horribly wrong - if you get pregnant, run out of money, anything - let us know, and your dad and I will always be there to help you out." A very comforting safety net that advice has been since then, too.

And from various relatives: "Get your degree. Employers are looking for people with college degrees, not because it proves you learned that subject, but because it proves you were willing to stick with something to the end and finish it. It doesn't matter what your degree is in, just so long as you have that degree." (One of the relatives who gave me that speech is a Computer Science professor - with an undergrad degree in English.)

#106 ::: siriosa ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 08:29 PM:

(first post: long-time lurker)

Advice from my mom:
1. Trust your instincts. If you suddenly have a deep desire to be on the other side of the street, go ahead and cross the street. It's okay to feel silly, just do it.
2. Don't give them the satisfaction (of knowing they've hurt your feelings).
3. Some people are going to like you and some people aren't, and there's not a thing you can do about them. Just let 'em go, and concentrate on the ones who do.
4. Don't look at me in that tone of voice.

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 08:53 PM:

siriosa, welcome! Excellent first post!

#108 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 09:07 PM:

Um, (applied to aggressive drivers) "Let the wookie win."

#109 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 09:16 PM:

Carol Kimball @95: My dad was fond of: "Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

I heard that one frequently. I probably shoot down about 1/5th of my comments before posting (and sometimes, in retrospect, I think "That was funny; I should have posted it").

#110 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 09:37 PM:

Me: Never wear a tie into a K-Mart.

#111 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 09:40 PM:

Xopher @ 76... Best boss I ever had.

Even when it was time for the yearly review?

#112 ::: Cecy ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 10:02 PM:

another lurker here, briefly delurking

Grandpa used to say, "Buy cheap dress shoes, but buy the best work shoes you can afford."

#113 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 10:28 PM:

A long time back, when we didn't have much money in the family and my choices were to put retreads on the car or not get to work, and I said something to my dad like "Wouldn't it be cheaper in the long run to buy new ones?" he nodded, then said,

"Son, poor folks have poor ways."

#114 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:14 PM:

Serge 111: Absolutely. She fought with her own management because the rating she wanted to give me was out of line with the average they wanted to maintain...they had this neat little bell curve, and they had already picked the people who would get the top ratings, and I wasn't one.

Great boss. Shitty company.

#115 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:18 PM:

My parents were not much on lasting guidance but my papa was an airline pilot and an Air Force officer and rigorously taught us to be responsible for our acts.

The best life lesson I learned from one of my partners, Rohanna. "Always ask for exactly what you want. The worst anyone can tell you is 'no.'"

#116 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:24 PM:

Plus, if I'd really been my diligent mother's daughter, I'd be mired in guilt about what other people think of me. she was (and is) all about 'what will the neighbors think?"

Dad was 'do your best and don't worry about anything else." That is a much healthier way to view the world.

#117 ::: gaukler ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:41 PM:

In hopes of diverting the serious trend this thread had taken, I can only repeat the wise words of my grandmother:
"You can get used to anything, said the man with the shit in his hat."

#118 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2008, 11:57 PM:

From my father: No matter where you go, no matter what you do, no matter what troubles you may encounter in your life-- there are nine hundred million people in China who really don't give a shit. So you might as well be happy.

Also: Always accelerate into turns.

And I'm not sure this originated with me, but I slipped it in a novel anyway: "In this world, you have to be oh-so-smart or oh-so-pleasant. I've spent years being smart. I highly recommend pleasant."

And a few others over here.

#119 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 12:19 AM:

From my father, a music teacher and choir director:

"How good do you want to be?" (in discussing how hard you should have to work)

"The only stupid question is the one you think of but don't ask."

From my husband's grandmother, before our wedding:

"Remember that in order to make the marriage work, each of you has to give 75%." (27 years and counting!)

From my mother, during my exceedingly awkward high school years:

"Don't worry about what everyone is thinking about you. They're all worried about what everyone is thinking about them."

#120 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 12:37 AM:

From me to me:
"There is absolutely nothing you can do that a hell of a lot of work cannot fix." It says something about me that a) this hasn't worked to make me less nervous and b) 'do' in this case means 'screw up someone else's research'.
"All we can do is our best." For pets, and dying, and saying goodbye.
"Leave footprints." Nervous. Tendency to not want to affect anything when nervous. Unfortunately, 'getting work done' counts as 'affecting'.
"No one else is going to take care of it," where 'it' can be just about anything.

Most of my me-to-me advice boils down to, "Do your work no matter what." Doesn't work all the time.

#121 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 12:56 AM:

Diatryma@120...

I'm reminded of a (good) artist who looked at my sketchbook (I hadn't actually intended for it to go anywhere near anybody else, so it was a bit embarrassing), and told me to stop trying to be perfect, and just bloody well draw already.

It was a point well made, and since gnawed over repeatedly.

#122 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 01:06 AM:

I don't recall that I've ever gotten any particularly good advice from either of my parents, but I offer up these tidbits drawn from my own experience:
1) Never eat in a pink chinese restaurant with no windows.
2) Never stay in a hotel, motel, or other form of accommodation with the word "Happy" in the name.
3) Never get a tattoo in a language you don't speak.

#123 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 01:14 AM:

Every philosopher in history has expended reams of paper (or cowhide, or clay) justifying the conclusions which were obvious to him or her from day one.

You can do this too. It's a valid vocation. But whether you do or not, start by paying attention to *what* is intuitively obvious to you. Your intuition is the sublimation of your life experience trying to talk to you.

(Then, as you gain more XP, revisit that stuff and see if it's still true. But everyone will give you *that* advice.)

Also: grown up is when *you* can decide when to eat too much ice cream.

#124 ::: Bruce Purcell ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 01:25 AM:

'Never break the law in front of a cop'; I've often told people my daddy told me.

Not really. Really he told me it was OK to stretch points when I told people 'what my daddy told me'. Not many people left who realize how much nicer that was; given me, given him.

#125 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 02:02 AM:

Suzanne's personal experience advice @ 122 reminds me of the advice I gave to my daughter,
"Never get your hair done at a place called the 'Hair Saloon'."

#126 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 03:04 AM:

I was going to ask the origin of "Never start a land war in Asia," but I thought I'd Google first. According to Yahoo Answers it comes from The Princess Bride. That makes one more reason I should pull that DVD off the shelf and watch it (I bought it on sale a couple of years ago but have never unwrapped it; I thought I should watch it given its frequent citations).

Somehow I thought it came from the rules of "Risk" or something like that.

#127 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 04:10 AM:

Another one from my mother: No matter how poor you are, there's no excuse not to be clean.

From me, to myself and in the meantime to my kids: (1) If this is the worst thing that happens to you today, it won't have been a bad day. (2) Never say never.

#128 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 04:21 AM:

Glenn Hauman@118: Your latter one ("smart" vs. "pleasant") comes from the movie Harvey.

#129 ::: anthony ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 05:33 AM:

father:
don't let your schooling get in the way of yr education
sacred cows make great hamburger

my mother:
because i have been given much, i too shall give
temperance

#130 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 07:10 AM:

My parents went to some trouble to avoid giving me this kind of advice. However, from a friend:

"If you don't want it, it isn't cheap".

And from a former boss:

"Always remember this when dealing with doctors and lawyers. They're exactly as good at their job as you are at yours".

The latter can be reassuring or terrifying, depending on the mood you're in.

#131 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 10:08 AM:

From my father, when I was very young, and breathing fire with a desire to "get even" for some schoolyard slight or other:

"Don't lower yourself to their level."

#132 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 10:22 AM:

Family wisdom, allthough usually (thankfully) not really followed:

The money that you don't have, you might as well spend.

#133 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 10:25 AM:

"You may use my tools, but put them back where they belong."
- my dad

#134 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 10:32 AM:

From me to me:

There are 7 billion people on the planet. We can't all be special. (Still struggling with this one--I grew up a fairly big fish in a very small pond and haven't yet gotten used to being ordinary.)

#135 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 10:36 AM:

Me: Avoid doing business with anyone you can't communicate with well enough that each understands what the other intends.

#136 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 10:43 AM:

Just because something is free doesn't mean it's not overpriced.

#137 ::: Ann Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 11:20 AM:

My mother's favorite advice: "Pee before you go."
My father's mantra: "We don't write this script."

#138 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 11:38 AM:

"Make this as you go."
- Indiana Jones's best advice

#139 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 12:32 PM:

Serge@138: Make what?

#140 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 12:34 PM:

My dad, Thomas McLaughlin Higgins, under circumstances I will someday describe in more detail:

Now for some parting advice:

Put a little water on the comb.

#141 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 12:46 PM:

xeger @ 139...

Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark? After Indy finds the Ark in the middle of nowhere, the Nazis take it from him, load it into a truck and drive away.

"I'm going after the Nazis."
"How, Indy?"
"I don't know. I make this as I go."

#142 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 01:00 PM:

Serge: I think the line, which he kind of swallows, is "I'm making this up as I go." He pronounces it as "I'maknisuhpuhzIgo" (approximately).

What I was told were Basque Shaman (?!) rules:

1. Show up.
2. Pay attention.
3. Don't be attached to the outcome.

Remember that great boss I told you about? When I told her those, she made them the rules for our department (Quality Assurance) when attending meetings with other groups.

I don't know where this came from originally, but it's been floating around forever: Work like you don't need the money; love like you've never been hurt; dance like nobody's watching.

From The Goddess (channeled by Doreen Valiente): All acts of love and pleasure are My rituals. (In other words, when you're acting with both love and pleasure at the same time, you are doing a sacred thing. Note that sharing a bowl of strawberries with your grandchild counts.)

#143 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 01:01 PM:

Rats. I KNEW there were four rules in that first set! They go:

1. Show up.
2. Pay attention.
3. Tell the truth.
4. Don't be attached to the outcome.

I forgot the most important one!

#144 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 01:02 PM:

Mom: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and if the rabbit hadn't stopped to shit, the dog would never have caught it.

First Boss: When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.

"Mad" magazine: We can go broke saving money.

WORST advice/role modeling ever (Dad): There can only be ONE boss. And I'm the boss!

BEST motto ever (Unknown): Once is an accident, twice is a habit.

#145 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 01:30 PM:

Vicki @ 136: Just because something is free doesn't mean it's not overpriced.

I put that slightly differently: Just because something is free doesn't mean that the cost isn't too high.

(This was an unspoken response to someone's "[You] turned down free sex?!")

#146 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 01:37 PM:

Ann Rose @137: That's pretty close to one of my mother-in-law's bits of advice; her phrasing was "Pee before you leave."

There were a number of "You will never do thus-and-so!" rules that she came home from her operating-room-nurse job with; this one came from helping clean up the results when a young woman got in a really nasty car accident with a full bladder and her bladder burst. IIRC, this one happened about the time when my-now-wife's high school class was making safety posters to slogans of their choice, and her mom really wanted that one to be hers. (I don't recall if she actually used it or not.)

#147 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 01:41 PM:

King George V of Britain, responding to a question about how to deal with being a public figure: "Never pass up an oportunity to sit down; never pass up an opportunity to piss."

#148 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 01:46 PM:

Xopher @ 142... You're quite right. And he does mumble the line. But his advice, embarassed as he may be at 'fessing up, has served me well when I know I can't plan for all contingencies.

#149 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 02:12 PM:

AlyxL@96: I thought I'd heard the prose form of attributed to Erasmus, but a minimal search doesn't find any cites. How far back does Muslihuddin date?

SW@105: your relatives were right; my incipient boss told me when I transferred from testing software to writing it that he appreciated my post-college night-school certificate not because of what I'd learned (although 3 of the 8 courses had lots of since-proved-useful bits in them) but because I had the persistence to finish while working fulltime.

Xopher@114: they'd already picked the high end without hearing from everybody closest to the business end of the stick? How long did they survive?

Linkmeister@126: Risk players start land wars in Asia all the time; that's why most of them understand that trying to \hold/ Asia is a bad idea even if you get tons of extra armies for doing so.

wrt the subthread on using the facilities, cf Lazarus Long's "Fill what's empty. Empty what's full. Scratch where it itches." (A bit ... fundamental ..., considering that at least one of RAH's characters had some understanding of art.)

My father was fond of quoting the classics, and even of assuming That Tone for a gnomic utterance, but that was so long ago I've forgotten all of them. (Reflecting other comments, I do remember being told not to let other people get to you -- but I got that from my elementary-school principal.)

Don't remember where I first found this (although it was certainly a \long/ time ago), but I've often seen the truth of "Weeks of work in the laboratory will save you an hour's sweating over books in the library."

Fannish ]rules[ for neos at conventions:
- "5/2": always get 5 hours sleep a night and 2 meals a day. Reversing these numbers does not work. I know at least one curmudgeon who says this ought to be 5/2/1 (the 1 being a shower); but I suspect the first two are more likely to be heeded.
- [various, IIRC including Asprin and Passovoy]: never drink more than half a glass of anything you're offered, no matter how good it tastes.

wrt the latter: Not long after I finished college, the daughter of one of my chorus's accompanists told me her mother's going-off-to-college talk: "I suppose there are all sorts of things I ought to tell you, but the only one I can think of is 'Don't drink punch.' " Somebody remembered and quoted back to me (forgetting that I'd been the one that told it) for the purpose of arguing that college was exactly the time to ]drink punch[ on the grounds that you (a) have some protection that you don't have in the real world and (b) can wipe the slate when you pick up your diploma -- although with the growing permanence of net records I have to wonder whether that's true.

#150 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 02:31 PM:

chris y (147):
King George V of Britain, responding to a question about how to deal with being a public figure: "Never pass up an oportunity to sit down; never pass up an opportunity to piss."

The military version of that is "never pass up an opportunity to eat, sleep, or piss"

#151 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 03:05 PM:

CHip: In retrospect I think they just didn't want to give any of the high slots to QA, since that would make it harder to lay us off later. Upper management never really saw QA as important...and we were a pure expense, right, instead of a profit center.

Sort of like wasting all that money on seatbelts and airbags. Pure expense.

#152 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 04:41 PM:

Chip@149: I suspect that the "don't drink punch" advice was given for much the same reason as we've told our daughters "don't drink out of any bottle you haven't personally seen the cap removed from" and "never leave your drink unattended."

#153 ::: hapax ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 04:49 PM:

My mother always gave the same two pieces of (contradictory? complementary?) advice:

"Them who asks, gits."
"Never ask a question you don't want to know the answer to."

My husband says his mother only ever gave him one:

"No matter what she says, use a condom."

#154 ::: siriosa ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 05:49 PM:

Xopher @ 107: thanks!

These are great. Here are a few from Cara Louise Vaughn, the love of my life, who made great strides in her attempt to civilize me (before dying tragically young):

Start in a corner.
Pick your battles: it's okay to let somebody be wrong (on the internet, or in life).
"Mm" is an answer.

Those last two probably added years to my life expectancy. I used to have a terrible habit of just saying any old thing to any old body. Now I actually think about whether I want to have that battle.

#155 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 06:27 PM:

I had to wrack my brains for a long time before I could surface an example of advice I received from my father that wasn't absolutely, catastrophically Wrong in the end. Here it is:

"Adventurer is a really lousy name for a boat."

#156 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 06:40 PM:

Here's some software engineering wisdom I received from one of the older cats on my previous team: there are only three numbers that matter; zero, one and many; and, it's always worth remembering that one turns out to be many more often than not.

#157 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 06:54 PM:

John Houghton @ 150: And the doctor's version is "Eat when you can, sleep when you can, shit when you can" -- paired with "Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down."

(I know this from hanging out with one pediatric electrocardiologist, and one MD/PhD. They've never actually said the "shit when you can" bit, but I gathered that's the actual wording. I could be wrong.)

Linkmeister @ 126, "Never start a land war in Asia" is also a good rule for Risk.

Suzanne @ 122, my realtor set forth the maxim, "Never patronize a business whose name starts with the word 'Mr.'" Like Mr. Donut, Mr. Engine, Mr. Wok, Mr. Appliance.... (She's a great person. I recently heard that she's out of the agenting business and now in management and training -- which is too damn bad, because when I go to sell this house I wanted to hire her to sell it. Not only because she's very good at her job, but also because I had so much fun listening to her hilarious stories of crazy clients.)

#158 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 07:19 PM:

hapax @ 153:

There we see the difference between "ask for" and "ask about." On the latter, I have friends who have told inquisitive relatives "Yes, you can ask about my personal life, but only if you're prepared for answers." Often one or two honest answers have led the inquirer to hurriedly change the topic. "May I have some cheese" or "I'd like to borrow the car" is unlikely to get unwanted information about the other person's relationships, health, or time in jail. (If it does, any statement at all, including "Good morning," might have produced the same revelations.)

#159 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 08:08 PM:

Some years ago, Auckland lawyer Christopher Harder (who himself has led a chequered life) released a spoken word /rap single. The lyrics of "Legal Sunscreen" are still available on Google Cache.

#160 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 08:52 PM:

Dad:
1. The key is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you have it made.

2. Pick your goal first. With a goal, what you have to do becomes self-evident.

Mom:
1. It's better to be happy than right. (Unfortunately she has given this advice by negative demonstration, rather than by verbal communication.)
2. Marry the person you love, not the person your parents love.

#161 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 09:06 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 156: My physics teacher used to tell us that if we didn't know the answer, we should just choose from zero, one, and infinity, and we'd have a good chance of being correct.

#162 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 09:22 PM:

One thing I am pretty sure I learned from my father was how to pick a watermelon by thumping it. He also taught me you can get by with not-the-best fences, provided you maintain them regularly.

My mother was a nurse, she was fond of "Use your head to save your feet."

I can't really see this as gnomic, but there's a general applicability to "When we get to be our age--and I was being generous, he's far older than I--we need to be careful what we remember. There's no one left who can correct us."

#163 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 09:35 PM:

My Dad used to always point out this common pattern that would come up between people:

"I'll show you, I'll smear s--t in my face."

It's amazing how often you see some variant of this, in which someone makes themselves miserable to demonstrate how bad/wicked/unjust/unfair/inconsiderate the other person (or the universe, the government, society, God, etc.) is.

He also commented that in any society, folks would find some people to hate. If they didn't have race, religion, wealth, education, or language to use as an excuse, they'd find something else, but there are always people on the bottom, and there's usually some kind of made-up justification for why it's good and right that all blacks/gays/Jews/Catholics/Croats/etc. be permanently hated and kicked around. (His pithy summary of this involved the n-word, so I'm not going to quote it here.)

#164 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 10:01 PM:

From my mum, on going outside in the rain:
'You're not made of sugar, you won't melt.'
on asking for something to drink:
'There's plenty of water in the tap.'

My dad's advice was mostly given as anecdotes, but I've always remembered one rule:
'The larger the building, the more likely someone has left a door unlocked.'

My son can't recall any words of wisdom from me, but I'd offer 'Take that marble out of your mouth, or you'll swallow it.'
-Barbara

#165 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 10:10 PM:

Arkansawyer@161, it sounds like your physics teacher and mine are from the same school.

I think I'm going to pass on the "zero, one and many" item to my sprog, when he's old enough, with the following collorary— things come in five different categories of countability: A) zero, B) one, C) zero or one, D) one or more, and finally, E) zero, one or more... and nearly everything is in the last category, not one of the first four.

Sadly, none of this sounds very "gnomic" to me. I suck as a parent.

#166 ::: hapax ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 10:46 PM:

My physics teacher taught us "Figure out what units the answer should be in, and then apply conversion factors until you get the right one."

#167 ::: Adrian Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 11:00 PM:

"Figure out what units the answer should be in, and then apply conversion factors until you get the right one."

Dimensional analysis, innit.

#168 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 11:05 PM:

The odds are extremely good that you will either be one short or two extra on supplies for whatever project you're working on.

#169 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 11:25 PM:

I just remembered another piece of gnomic advice I received from my father (who served an extended tour in the U.S. Navy that ended with the Cuban missile crisis):

Tell them you want to see the Jewish chaplain.
I'm not sure whether this was good advice or not.

#170 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2008, 11:31 PM:

re 91: You also need to know how to ask where the bank is.

#171 ::: K. G. Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 12:15 AM:

From my grandfather, when I turned 18:

"All you need to know about money is this: If you give 10 people $100 each and put them all on an island, at the end of a year some of them will have lots of money and some of them will have nothing."

#172 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 03:55 AM:

Friend of my husband's: "If you're one in a million, there's a thousand just like you in China."

The Green Lantern: "Flash, don't heckle the supervillain!"

#173 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 04:33 AM:

From my mother, upon my departure to college:

1) Don't move in with the first girl who will have you.

From my father, about a week before that:

2) Son, whatever you do, don't get involved with a depressive woman.

So what do you think I did? First chance I got, I disregarded both pieces of advice -- with the same woman.

Yes, of course my folks were right.

#174 ::: Shinydan Howells ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 06:18 AM:

It's not really parental, but:

Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

#175 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 11:28 AM:

Dad: It's better to be a smart ass than to be a dumb ass.

And he'd often elaborate: Being a smart ass is intentional and in theory, you can stop.


#176 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 01:15 PM:

There are a bunch of "What my dad told me" lines. The ones that stood out were the ones I really needed to learn...

I was giving an excuse once and he said "Nobody gives a shit." It's true. Nobody cares WHY it's not done. They only care THAT it's not done.

#177 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 03:10 PM:

To my kids, so far:

1. Real food before dessert, toilet before a trip.
2. I am the scariest thing in this situation and I'm on your side. (helps enormously with nightmares)
3. There is exactly one person in the whole universe whom you can control.

#178 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 06:08 PM:

Mine own: if they can't spell it, odds are you shouldn't eat it. Exceptions for errant apostrophes in down-home joints.

#179 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 07:54 PM:

Me: Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

#180 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 09:07 PM:

My first boss, and in many ways the best: If you can't leave your job for a couple weeks of vacation without things falling apart, you're doing something wrong. If you can leave your job for a couple of months without it making any difference, you're also doing something wrong.

#181 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 12:01 AM:

Abi@177.3: That strikes me as at best an upper bound.

#182 ::: John Fiala` ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 12:07 AM:

From my Dad: "Measure Twice, Cut Once"

From my Mom: "Backup your data."

#183 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 12:51 PM:

My father used to assure me that grunting when splitting wood helped get the wood split.

When I was quite small, he used to let me do the grunting for him, to help.

#184 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 01:47 PM:

David @181:

I strive to be an optimist, yea, even in the face of reality.

#185 ::: Hank Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 03:48 PM:

"Don't eat the snow this winter. Tell the other kids." -- my dad, North Carolina, late 1950s.

Much later, I was able to figure out why.

"... The states were Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia in the South, and Nevada, Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming in the West. "

http://www.ratical.org/radiation/SecretFallout/

#186 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 03:59 PM:

Every morning before school, my husband tells our daughter, "Listen well, try hard, have fun." (He swiped it from another dad's blog, but I can't find the origin now.)

His (most excellent) advice to new dads - "Change as many diapers as you can."


Favorite advice from my guru: "If you're ever tempted to do something because 'nobody will see', remember that one person will always be watching everything you do."

(pause while everyone thinks, right, god, of course)

"You."

#187 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 04:16 PM:

abi @ 177... There is exactly one person in the whole universe whom you can control.

You mean, that person's feelings of powerlessness?

#188 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 04:53 PM:

From the NASA systems programmers back when we had the S360/95 big enough to get lost in[1]:

"What's the simplest and stupidest possible way to solve the problem that you can prove works?"

and

"Don't ask them what they want to do. Ask them what they want to have happen."

[1] If you took the wrong turn in the back of the machine room, you'd find yourself in a dead end somewhere in the middle of a bunch of faceless blue cabinets.

#189 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 05:08 PM:

And paraphrased from Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit" (which everyone here should read right now):

"Good dancers practice the things they are good at; great dancers practice the things they are bad at."

#190 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 08:12 PM:

from my Aunt, who also happened to be my first boss:
"frequently 90% right, now, is better than 100% right, six months from now." I still fight that one, but she's right, as usual.

"Use the right tool for the job."

and, because my mother's a librarian, "it's not necessarily important that you know, as long as you know how to find out."

#191 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 09:03 PM:

Brooks Moses @ #183, I like your dad.

#192 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 10:12 PM:

From my mother: "Try this again, tastes change".

From Jerry Pournelle, before I left for Basic Training, "The day comes to an end."

#193 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2008, 11:24 PM:

Leigh, #83: Do not compare yourself with others, lest you grow vain or bitter; the race is long, and sooner or later you realize it's only with yourself.

I remember a variation of this as part of the Desiderata: "Do not compare yourself with others, lest you grow vain and bitter; for there will always be others better and worse than yourself."

cajunfj40, #87: You won't be disappointed if you buy the best.

Corollary: The best is not always the costliest, and vice versa. Learn how to tell the difference.

Carol, #95: I think that one is also a Mark Twain aphorism. Would that more people (including myself on occasion!) paid heed to it.

Reputedly from Prince Charles, asked if he had any advice for people participating in Large Public Ceremonies: "Always seize any opportunity to go to the loo." (I got this from Reader's Digest many years ago, so attribution should be taken with a grain of salt.)

#194 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 01:15 AM:

Mycroft, your librarian comment has come in handy at all of my job interviews, and is part of the reason why I'm toying with getting an MLIS: I may not have much information stored in my head, but I'd like to think I can find nearly everything, given enough time and swearing.

#195 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 01:49 AM:

Hank, #185, how could you get DC & WV without VA?

#196 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 02:45 AM:

From the dim dark past of alt.fan.warlord:
"Words good, slogans bad".

Me (mostly):
"Never start anything you're not prepared to escalate".

#197 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 03:45 AM:

I can't remember much good advice from my parent, honestly. I did get certain good ways of thinking and habits from my dad - despite my generally bad relationship with him - and others from my mom, but nothing that could be summed up briefly.

I've tried to pass on a few things to my daughter though. About 8 years ago, as we finished renovating and refinishing this house before we moved in, I told her:

"I was never handy with tools as a kid; my dad never taught me any carpentry, and I was a klutz. The take-away lesson from that is: you can learn to do pretty much anything at any age, if you just put the effort in."

#198 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 07:00 AM:

From Jerry Pournelle, before I left for Basic Training, "The day comes to an end."

...in my experience it's best to think of the day ending when the sun comes up. Dawn is always good. Dawn means you have to stop moving around.

#199 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 09:30 AM:

Joe McMahon @189

"Good dancers practice the things they are good at; great dancers practice the things they are bad at."

Oh, that's nice! Worst advice I ever got was "build on your strengths, not on your weaknesses." (Some of my father's favorite advice, although I did learn fairly early that doing the opposite of anything he advised was usually the best course of action.)

#200 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 10:08 AM:

From an advisor in college, while I was beating myself up for not knowing things.

"You're not here to know. You're here to learn."

Similarly, from Teresa.

"Stuff I don't know is the dessert someone else brought."

I'm still trying to learn this lesson.

#201 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 10:25 AM:

"Conan! What is best in life?"
"To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."
"That is good! That is good."

#202 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 11:36 AM:

One from me: I decided about second year university that I was going to drink half as much beer, eat half as much chocolate, and not spend any less money.

I still feel that way, and have never regretted it. Unfortunately, I work across the street from the factory for arguably the best chocolate in the country (world-wide award winner, so arguably the best in the world, in fact). Keeping the "only spend as much" bit is hard...

#203 ::: siriosa ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2008, 04:50 PM:

Peg Bracken made my adolescence less miserable than it might have been:

"You wouldn't worry so much what people think of you if you knew how rarely they do."

#204 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2008, 12:13 PM:

From my uncle: If you're going to use it twice, you might as well buy it (the subject was borrowing tools, but I think it applies more broadly)

wymarc@15 quoted Admiral Grace Hopper. I'm fond of Hopper's "A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for."

From an early boss: Decisions remain in effect until changed (meaning, if you need to change course, fine, but don't wander off course without thinking about it)

From my mother, when I was self-conscious about something we'd done or been laughing about: But don't we have more fun than normal people?

And my newest favorite, from an article on survival by Laurence Gonzales in National Geographic Adventure magazine: Do the next right thing.

#205 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2008, 02:15 PM:

For system administration:

Do it once, hack it.
Do it twice, automate it.

(as, if you do it twice, you'll do it again)

#206 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2008, 02:17 PM:

As a tester, I don't automate till I foresee doing it seven times. Otherwise the maintenance kills me.

#207 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2008, 02:28 PM:

But those of us without het abiveld don't have to maintain things as much.

#208 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2008, 02:36 PM:

I think Theodore Sturgeon's motto needs to be in this thread:

"Ask the next question"

and, of course, what became (with modifications) his law:
"90% of science fiction is crap, but then, 90% of everything is crap".

#209 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2008, 02:51 PM:

siriosa,

"You wouldn't worry so much what people think of you if you knew how rarely they do."

that's one of my favourites, & it slipped my mind. i read a variation when i was just the right age, too, in david foster wallace's infinite jest.

#210 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2008, 01:13 PM:

Abi: The point behind "hack it once, automate it twice" is that way you don't have to foresee. If you automate it and you end up not having to do it again, all well and good, you wasted an hour or so building the script. But nothing ever goes the way one foresees; and if you've automated it, it's still there for next time - or even if it's broken because the world has changed underneath the automation, it's at least history of how it used to work.

Having said all of that, it ends up being a frustration factor for me: so I hack it three times or so before I say "blow this for a game of soldiers" and pull out the Camel Book. I'm trying to force myself into the motto, because it will save me time in the long run.

#211 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2008, 01:20 PM:

"Take frequent backups."

#212 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2008, 01:30 PM:

Mycroft @210:
Test automation is different, I think, than what you're doing. By the second run I'm still refining the test.

Serge @211:
My boss (who is Jewish) sometimes turns to me and says, "What would Jesus do?" as we're working together.

"Save," I invariably reply.

#213 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 12:51 PM:

Abi: ah. That makes sense now.

No, this is "I need to get to the /today directory for a client", or "the boss just asked for an audit of behaviour of this system" or "the application hard drive just went Tango Uniform, replace and get it back up" or any of the other little tweaky things that sysadmins do.

However one of the things about test automation is that the process of automation itself is testing...

#214 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 01:05 PM:

abi @ 212... Especially in the middle of a pilate project?

#215 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 01:54 PM:

Serge #214: That seems rather pontius of you.

#216 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 01:59 PM:

My father once said: ”you’re a better door than a window” (ie, please stop standing in front of the tv set).

My mother and her relatives tended to say things like “Sing at table or whistle in bed, and the Devil will get you when you’re dead.”

I think my grandfather once mentioned that you should always buy the best suit you can afford, because even if you can’t afford a new one for many years after that, people who know about such things will be able to tell that it was once a very good suit.

“You can tell them apart, because Bright is right, and Lion’s wrong.” Old man naming the two oxen pulling his cart. That was nearly thirty years ago, and I’m still not sure I get his joke. Lying’s wrong?

My advice on aesthetics: “Do whatever you like, just make it emphatic enough that people can tell it’s not by accident.”

#217 ::: Jen B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 02:29 PM:

"If you don't know what it is, light it on fire."

Advice given to me by my father last weekend, whilst helping him sort fireworks purchased over the course of many years. Said advice was then immediately demonstrated.

#218 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 02:40 PM:

"Dogs have owners. Cats have a staff."

#219 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 03:21 PM:

"you’re a better door than a window"

My mother's version of this was: "Your father wasn't a glassblower."

#220 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 03:26 PM:

"As usefully as a screendoor in a submarine."
- said by a co-worker about a manager who never stood up to higherups.

#221 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 03:32 PM:

#219, 216: My mother-in-law used to say "you've been drinking muddy water."

#222 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 03:36 PM:

"No news is good news - either that or the internet and the phones are down."

#223 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2008, 04:20 PM:

#s 221, 219, 216: In my youth some of my contemporaries used to say 'You're not transparent, or if you are, you're dirty.'

#224 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2008, 09:09 AM:

“Do whatever you like, just make it emphatic enough that people can tell it’s not by accident.”


Two pieces of advice I remember from when I was a young musician:

"A wrong note played timidly is a mistake. A wrong note played with confidence is an interpretation."

and

"When the rest of the orchestra reaches the end of the piece, stop - even if you still have notes left over."

#225 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2008, 09:14 AM:

"Don't assume, not if it involves something that someone else is supposed to do."

#226 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2008, 12:13 PM:

I forgot to mention one of my favorites, from The Magic Schoolbus: "Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!"

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