The Abacus

I don’t like math at all, so I’m not sure why I like abaci, but I do. I have a nice wooden one that I got on eBay, it is one of the Japanese style, which seem more elegant in function to me than the Chinese style. I stumble across this site from time to time… it looks as if the author has expanded it quite a bit in the last year.

Visit the site…

PETA: People Eradicating Tons of Animals

The following story is from This is True dated 17 July 2005. It is Copyright 2005 Randy Cassingham, all rights reserved, and reprinted here with permission:

“Ethical” Defined

After more than 100 dead dogs were dumped in a trash dumpster over four weeks, police in Ahoskie, N.C., kept an eye on the trash receptacle behind a supermarket. Sure enough, a van drove up and officers watched the occupants throw in heavy plastic bags. They detained the two people in the van and found 18 dead dogs in plastic bags in the dumpster, including puppies; 13 more dead dogs were still in the van. Police say the van is registered to the headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the two occupants, Andrew B. Cook, 24, and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, identified themselves as PETA employees. An autopsy performed on one of the dogs found it was healthy before it was killed. Police say PETA has been picking up the animals — alive — from North Carolina animal shelters, promising to find them good homes. Cook and Hinkle have been charged with 62 felony counts of animal cruelty. In response to the arrests PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said it’s against the group’s policy for employees to dump animals in the trash, but “that for some animals in North Carolina, there is no kinder option than euthanasia.” (Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald) …Oops, my mistake: that’s “Playing God” Defined.

In his author’s notes section, Cassingham had more to say about this story:

The more I learn about PETA, the less I think of them. The story of them killing animals isn’t even unusual. According to PETA’s own filings, in 2004 PETA killed 86.3 percent of the animals entrusted to its care — a number that’s rising, not falling. Meanwhile, the SPCA in PETA’s home town (Norfolk, Va.) was able to find loving homes for 73 percent of the animals put in its care. A shortage of funds? Nope: last year PETA took in $29 million in tax-exempt donations. It simply has other priorities for the funds, like funding terrorism (yes, really). But don’t take my word for it: I got my figures from — and they have copies of PETA’s state and federal filings to back it up. The bottom line: if you donate money to PETA because you think they care for and about animals, you need to think some more. PETA literally yells and screams about how others “kill animals” but this is how they operate? Pathetic.

And you know what I wonder? PETA’s official count of animals they kill is 86.3 percent. But if they’re going around picking up animals, killing them while they drive around and not even giving them a chance to be adopted, and then destroying the evidence by dumping the bodies in the trash, are those deaths being reported? My guess: no. While 86.3 percent is awful, the actual number is probably much, much higher. How dare they lecture anyone about the “ethical” treatment of animals!

(This is True is a weekly column featuring weird-but-true news stories from around the world, and has been published since 1994. Click the link for info about free subscriptions.)

Under Sahara

How does a scientist know that the vast, featureless sand fields of the
Sahara once ran with water? Water leaves its mark on the land, cutting
channels and canyons where rivers flowed and leaving depressions where
lakes once pooled. In the Sahara, however, these features are filled with
sand. A scientist would have to look under the sand to find the imprint of
water from wetter climates. These images of the Safsaf Oasis in
south-central Egypt do just that: the top image shows the surface of the
desert, while the lower image reveals the water-carved rock under the

I think I might hate the word "actual."

I have a co-worker who starts many, many sentences with one or the other of two phrases: “To tell you the truth,” or “To be completely honest with you.”

Now… any repetition grates on me (long story) but inanities like these really get to me. I fully expect that my co-worker will be honest with me, so his use of these “filler” phrases gets my goat from two angles; needless statements plus repetition.

As I believe that anything that makes me angry is based more on me than on the thing that seems to be “causing” the anger, I took some time to think through my response to his verbal ticks. For one thing, if a person is lying, it won’t matter if they say “to tell you the truth,” since they’re just as likely to lie after saying that as they would be without the lead-in phrase. So the phrase is useless. Secondly, I realized that I hated hearing those useless phrases because I suspect that I also use such mechanisms in my own speech! Indeed, I have discovered that the word “actual” litters my conversation. I found this out after listening to another co-worker who used the word “actual” several times in almost every sentence he spoke during a presentation.

Having been sensitized to it, I started hearing it in my own sentences. Like “to be completely honest with you,” it is both meaningless and a space filler. In almost any sentence, the word “actual” can be dropped without changing the meaning of the sentence. I find it difficult to locate exceptions, that is… sentences which require the word.

Actually, I am finding it very difficult to remove the actual word “actual” from my actual, everyday actual usage.


IBM SHARK Shorthand

IBM SHARK Shorthand: “The following factors make SHARK shorthand particularly powerful.

Memorability: A person’s ability to recognize, memorize and draw patterns is remarkable. SHARK shorthand capitalizes on this remarkable human capability. Gesturing patterns with a stylus is particularly fluid, dexterous and fun.

Pattern Recognition: SHARK shorthand uses modern digital processing capability to compute the statistical constraints represented by the legitimate sokgraphs on the stylus keyboard. Our pattern recognition technology takes advantage of these constraints and gives the user the maximum flexibility in sokgraph gesturing. An intended word can still be entered although irrelevant letters between intended letters are crossed or even if some of the letters in a word are missed in the stylus trace on the keyboard.”

This is the site discussed in the post a bit further down. – 07/15/2005 – Text entry software spells relief for weary BlackBerry thumbs

“The problem is how to comfortably enter text onto the screens of pocket-size devices. Anyone who uses a cell phone to laboriously tap out text messages, or a BlackBerry to respond to e-mail, knows what I’m talking about – – those tiny keypads cause thumb strain. At the same time, software that attempts to recognize either speech or regular handwriting isn’t reliable.
SHARK in its current form – – demonstrated so far on full-size Windows XP notebooks – – puts a small grid on the screen. The grid shows a cluster of letters in what appears to be random order.
To write a word, you put the stylus on the first letter of the word and then drag the stylus to draw a line through the alphabet cluster, touching every letter in the word. When you lift up the stylus after hitting the last letter, SHARK figures out what word you want and displays it on the screen.”

(read the original article)