Tag: QOTD June 2018

Quote of the Day: “Theirs Not to Reason Why, Theirs But to Do and Die”


Some things never change.

On 25th October 1854, during the Battle of Balaclava, 670 British soldiers under the command of Lord Cardigan, launched an ill-fated attack upon a well-defended Russian artillery battery and sustained 40 percent casualties in the form of approximately 120 killed, and at least 160 wounded. Fifty were taken prisoner. Also killed were 375 horses. The carnage must have been unimaginable. For most of us, anyway.

The circumstances surrounding the “blunder” which caused the troops to engage, not in a series of quick forays to deter the Russians from making off with Ottoman guns, but in a full-on frontal assault on a well dug-in position, are still unclear, and revolve around personal antipathies among the commanders (Lord Cardigan, Lord Lucan and Lord Raglan), vague and unverified orders, and misunderstandings (and perhaps some ill-feeling) among the aides-de-camps communicating them. The ADC who took the initial order from Lord Raglan (whatever that order was) was killed in the first few minutes of fighting, and was therefore unavailable to help sort out the mess afterwards. Not that there was much sorting outdone, no-one being eager to accept responsibility for the SNAFU.

Quote of the Day: Alan Turing on Theological Arguments


I am not very impressed with theological arguments whatever they may be used to support. Such arguments have often been found unsatisfactory in the past. In the time of Galileo it was argued that the texts, “And the sun stood still… and hasted not to go down about a whole day” (Joshua 10:13) and “He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not move at any time” (Psalm 104:5) were an adequate refutation of the Copernican theory.” — Alan Turing

As a recovering math major, I must admit that I also have some difficulty with most theological arguments. Metaphysical interpretation makes a lot more sense and is applicable in everyday life. I don’t care how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but I do care to be able to identify when I am taking a bite of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And on a political site like Ricochet, folks are handing me those fruits to taste every day. Usually, I pass and stay in the Edenic state of consciousness. But I doubt Turing ever met that sort of metaphysics.

Quote of the Day: We Know a Hawk From a Handsaw. (And a Cat From Guacamole.)


“One shortcoming of current machine-learning programs is that they fail in surprising and decidedly non-human ways. A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students recently demonstrated, for instance, how one of Google’s advanced image classifiers could be easily duped into mistaking an obvious image of a turtle for a rifle, and a cat for some guacamole.” — Jerry Kaplan, The Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2018

We have recently been bombarded with stories about AI (Artificial Intelligence, for those of you who live in farm country and think it means something else), and about how our meager human brains will soon not be able to keep up with those super-smart machines. Self-driving cars. Computers that accurately diagnose, and even treat, medical conditions. Robots that perform surgery and manage eldercare. Autonomous military drones. Siri. Predictive applications to “enhance” your Internet experience (Amazon, Pandora, etc.). Chatbots. Legal assistants. And, of course, the omnipresent Google.

So I was strangely reassured by today’s Quote of the Day, which appeared in a WSJ article focusing on efforts to make self-driving cars fail in predictable ways (so that, for example, they do not mistake light reflected back from their camera lenses for truck headlights rushing towards them from the other direction, and run off the road as a result. Or so they don’t perform like the self-driving Uber test vehicle in Tempe, AZ, which killed a pedestrian walking her bike across the road because its algorithms, which did recognize her presence, mistook it for “ghosting” in the poorly-lit night.)

Quote of the Day: “Come On, You Sons of Bitches, Do You Want to Live Forever?”


Commemorating the start of the Battle of Belleau Wood, 100 years ago today, and Sergeant Daniel Joseph Daly, who is credited with shouting these words to his men, just before charging the Germans. It is reputed that Daly was twice offered a commission, and that he responded, on both occasions, that he would “rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.”

I’ve been well schooled by my nearest and dearest, over the past forty years, on the unique position enjoyed by the word “outstanding” atop the United States Marine Corps hierarchy of merit. And I have a sense that the soon-to-be Sergeant Major was using the adjective correctly in reference to himself. He is one of only seven Corps recipients of two Medals of Honor (there are nineteen such across all the service branches), and he and Major General Smedley D. Butler are the only two Marines to have been awarded their Medals for separate actions, in different years.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a bit of the fog of battle about the origin of the quote itself. Some claim that those weren’t exactly Daly’s words, that they were either even more salty, or slightly less so; others say that, perhaps, they were shouted by someone else. Still others say that a similar cry was first given breath by Frederick the Great, at the battle of Kolin in 1757.