The Sayings of Nate Dickmeyer


I don’t have to be right. I just have to make you think.

It doesn’t matter what the class is about; it’s always the world according to Nate Dickmeyer (borrowed).

The appropriate metaphor for teaching is not pouring wisdom into an empty vessel; It’s opening a release valve to allow old ideas to escape.

If you just listen to me, you won’t learn a thing.

Higher education

Colleges build enormous hierarchies, like armies, with presidents and vice presidents at the top so far removed from the fighting that they have little idea what’s going on. All they can do is yell, “Charge,” and hope someone recognizes an enemy that’s not them.

Faculty morale is always at an all-time low (borrowed).

We don’t have enough offices for students who don’t go to offices.

The purpose of secretaries is to make work for other secretaries.

So many hammers; so few nails.

Starting a for-profit university is like building a railroad over the ocean.

Federal and state financial aid is not supposed to go to “them people.”

Faculty unionization is a sign that some of the old guard have become department chairs and, thus, sympathizers.

Unionization of adjuncts is a necessary prelude to their extinction. Automated content provision is so much less bothersome.

Seeking technology that serves no one’s needs is like buying your wife a snow-blower for Christmas.



All my theories are wrong, even this one, because it’s right.

Two constructs describing the universe probably do not exist in reality: randomness and infinity. They are, however, very useful analogies to the limits of human intelligence.

Except in quantum theory, randomness only expresses the limits of our ability to measure.

Infinity and dimensionless nothingness cannot exist in the same universe. I believe in nothing.

Given the apparent limited lifespan of intelligent life on earth, the probability of contacting similarly intelligent life elsewhere is negligible. What is the product of an infinitely large number times an infinitesimally small number?

If I could go back and make a change in my life, the universe would cease to exist.


If your database has an error rate of one in one thousand, and each individual in your database has one thousand data elements, then chances are every person in your database is in error.

Every correction increases the probability of error exponentially.

I know almost nothing about statistics, but I know a lot about error. I find that more useful.

If you can’t shoot your outliers, don’t use averages.

Did you know that asking someone how many days does it take for a pond to be half covered with lily pads if the lily pads double in coverage each day and the pond is completely covered in 30 days means that your pond is 18 times the size of the Pacific Ocean and you know more about exponential growth than you know about lilies and ponds?

A good graph is the emotional summary of a truth.

Policies limit the average, never the possibilities.

If it don’t look right, it probably ain’t right.

Whenever you think you ought to save your work, go ahead.


Toe surgery ain’t so bad. They’re so far away.

I agreed to a traditional arranged marriage. My wife arranged it.

My first and second wives have the same birthday. It took a long time to find a qualified second wife.

After the fifth time you do something stupid, and it’s the machine that breaks, you remain convinced you’ve done something stupid and fail to see the true cause.

Migraines are nature’s way of telling us that we’re not perfect. Nature ain’t very nice.

That’s a horse of a different manure.

The key to a good relationship is never saying, “You know what’s wrong with you?” (The Armchair Tourist)

Only a devout atheist may celebrate Eid-e-Fetr, Christmas and Passover without criticism. The paucity of priests is helpful in this regard.

I will definitely believe in miracles when I can perform one of my choice.

I haven’t seen my soul in a while, but yours… yours I can see quite clearly.

I am not responsible for your happiness. I am only responsible for sadness, yours and mine.

Good though (borrowed)!

Every act of creation, especially art, requires a moral imperative, a suggestion as to why we exist. The avoidance of this struggle, pure entertainment as we call it, is mental suicide.

Before I jumped I had many small problems; after I jumped I had only one big problem (borrowed).

The integration of personality is an illusion. I’m not the man I remember being. I only pretend to be the sum of my memories. My memories must belong to someone else.

All my problems derive from my mother telling me to put on a sweater when she was cold.

It’s hard finding a suitable mate when you don’t know yourself.

Society, organizations and culture

Culture is little more than our own assumptions of our own proper behavior, imposed as expectations on others.

Culture defines structure, while structure limits culture. You can’t change one without changing the other.

If you live by right and wrong, you will be a slave to the priests of your culture. If you live by truth, justice and beauty, you will live as an outcast, governed only by the limits of your wisdom. Vivent les réprouvés! (Long live the damned!)

Criticism can only be constructive when there is no ego in the message (borrowed).

We should never assess people or offices. We must focus on systems and the behaviors that help the systems run better.

It is easier to train someone to help others than it is to get them to admit that they need help.

Process is everything; product is nothing (says Barney).

Every team has a least-valued member. A good team knows how to value his contribution.

Organizations are not a collection of offices. Organizations are an integrated set of systems.

If it ain’t tested, it don’t work.

The simple rules of battle only work once.

Foundry wisdom

If you’re cutting steel under a machine, pull the other hand out first, before you pull out the one holding the torch.

All ya need is a pair-a-dogs and a come-along.

Ain’t nothing like puttin’ wet sand down before ya drop bottom to shake the dust off the rafters.

110’s just a tickle, but 440’ll mess ya up some.

Make sure your rod’s in straight before ya drop your hood. It’s not nice to arc your arm.

Them’s good eatin’ (borrowed).

I got no honk; gotta get me a weesul (borrowed).

If you’re driving a fork lift down a narrow aisle, you don’t have to signal where you’re turning. You just have to look. Everybody knows to watch your eyes.

Sometimes you have to push the fire truck to the fire. Don’t assume things will go as planned in an emergency.

(Said with a shoulder shrug of complete indifference…) Eh, one is better than the other.

A gardener can be a hero simply by keeping the sprinkler water off the pretty bricks on the big shots’ wall.

Bicycling wisdom

Shifting into a big gear on an uphill is stupid. When there’s no sugar in your blood, you’re stupid. Eat or die.

If you’re riding a course that is half uphill and half down, and you go 5 miles an hour up and 45 miles an hour down, you will spend 90% of your time going up. Ya gotta love climbing!

There is rarely a headwind on a steep climb.

That bright line in the sky is where the rain starts.

If you sweat hard, you can draft all the way. No one wants to draft on a sweater.

If you lead, point out all the hazards. You can lose friends to roadkill.

Cherry blossoms in DC litter the road and obscure the broken glass.

When your warm-up time crosses over into your cool-down time, you’ve gotten old.

Ah ha! Fresh spit! Let’s catch him!

What’s green and white and says 7.2? Huh? Kansas!

Hiking and camping tips

Don’t sleep on the deck of a shuttered ski lodge. Porcupines just love the salt left in the railings by sweaty hands. They like the night too.

When you think you hear a gathering of locusts on the ground in front of you, remember that locusts live in bushes and trees. Stop! Step back slowly and carefully. Let the rattler pass.

You’ll never forget climbing down out of the clouds after a couple of weeks in the mist and having the whole valley open up beneath you.

Regularly turn around, look and remember what the trail looks like behind you. When you figure out you are lost, you’ll be going back that way.

You find the best mushrooms when you are lost.

If you are really, really lost, go downhill. Always follow the water to civilization.