Sunday, April 26, 2009

Yarn - Old and News

Not much time this week for tech stuff, as I've had two releases to coordinate in two weeks. Phew! Five working days between releases just isn't enough. Still, it was needed and it was done.
Big worries in the southern states of the US - and New York - about the swine flu outbreak in Mexico. In Mexico about 80 people have died - mostly young adults - whereas there seems to be a milder form that's infecting children here in the US. So far nobody has got really sick or died here in the US. Mexico City, OTOH, seems to be under virtual lockdown, with schools and most restaurants ordered closed. In addition, people have been urged to avoid hospitals! One or two cases may have occurred in London now. For an FAQ about Swine flu, see here, and you can also look at the WHO site for information.
Yarn Matters
Firstly, KnittyKnotty; 117 Haddon Avenue, Westmont, NJ 08108. From the mouth of the proprietress, with whom I spoke this afternoon, KK will be holding sale until close of business on Saturday, May 2nd. Thereafter it will remodel and reopen focussed not on retail yarn sales but on crafts, classes, product, and patterns. The re-opening date has yet to be announced. For details please see their website.

At the time of writing, there is lots of Noro, Plymouth Galway, and Auracania yarns, shop samples, straight & double-point needles. My Better Half and I wish her well in this metamorphosis.

Woolgathering in Kennett Square, PA
This is a delightful little shop jam-packed with wool and buttons and needles and things. As you can see, there are plenty of "donors" taking the sun in the window!

I'm also firmly instructed not to omit mention of their smallest "customer", who can be seen here contemplating the possibilities of using circular needles!

From within the shop, here's a whole wall of Noro (I really like socks made from Noro yarns!)

To finish with at Woolgathering, here's a basket of stuff just begging to be made into socks. Brilliant colours.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Few Pics of Philly

As you all doubtless know by now, we live just a few miles away from Philly. In fact, if you could guarantee me no police, then I could drive to the centre of the city in fifteen minutes! The Better Half's brother came to visit recently, so we went out into the city.

As you can see, brother L. may look skinny, but has huge reserves of The Force to draw upon when he needs to use it.

Then, after wandering around a bit, we went to the Comcast centre. Nice building, etc. Then they turned the TV wall on and showed us things - like although the moon isn't made of cheese, we'd never seen the door in the dark side. How come Ian Gilmore never told us about it ?

Now you have to realise that the Comcast Centre foyer is a pretty big, tall space. So, obviously, they have to have supports for some of the stuff, and struts are a natural. Equally natural is, I suppose, the tendency of people to take short-cuts.
You don't realise it at first, looking up, 'cos everything's a long way off and against a bright background, but ...

Some of these guys at Comcast are seriously krazee about taking the shortest path between two points (long live Euler!).

Anyhow, after a while we went out, wandered about, and found this little side-street to play with my son's newest toy (he calls it a Phaser and boy does it get hot)!

We really had to work hard to stop L. from taking pot-shots at William Penn. I think the local flic would have been seriously unhappy !

Finally, to end on a humourous note, just remember this the next time you get a Windows error message that makes no sense at all: even the big boys are not immune to the wrath of Uncle Bill and his minions!
Now you've seen this, wonder what they're doing to your money!

Oh yes, and by the way ..... for those interested in Paterson, NJ, you might also be interested in this Wikipedia article!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Yarn Problem ?

Answer: "Knitty Knotty"
Question: Collingswood, NJ
It's a yarn shop, of course. We went there a few weeks ago (still catching up, y'see!). They have a blog too!

Here on the right is a neat idea - a ball of yarn composed of different lengths of different yarns .....
here's a rather wonderful scarf from it.

This (top, left) is Katia Nordic: a super chunky, ultra-soft, 100% pure wool yarn with color combos ranging from brights to subtle muteds. Made in Spain.

A nice friendly shop, we chatted, bought some yarn for a hat for The Better Half's DD, but found little sock yarn for The Better Half to lust over. Did we miss it? Very possibly. However, definitely well worth setting aside an hour to go and spend in there.

A Saturday Morning in the Rain

We're pretty boring people, so yesterday we didn't really stir until about 11. I did a quick search for the desktop ASUS that I mentioned in a reply to a comment yesterday, and found a good picture - only a pure white one, tho'. Sorry! It's the only one I could find online. It certainly is "cute", as you Americans would say.

After some breakfast we went to a small yarn store in Moorestown, NJ, called The Needleworks Barn.

Like many things in Moorestown, it's actually down a little lane from the sign, and, as you can see from the next picture, it was raining quite hard when we got to it, and that it quite small. In fact, from the outside, one wonders if it really is the right place or if someone has crept in in the night and relabeled the sign and the shop.

Not to worry, though. This really is the place and is somewhat Tardis-like (find a Dr. Who fan!) in that the inside seems to be larger than the outside!

Inside, my wife zeroed in like some sort of homing missile on the stack of baby alpaca wool that was piled up in one corner, with more along one wall. One hank of the pink you can see in the middle was snaffled for making a "puff daddy" scarflet. My son The Offspring picked out a ball for the Step-Monster to use for his next pair of socks.

The store has quite a few pieces of store display that are also for purchase - I rather liked the line of scarves, each labeled with information on what you should buy (yarn, quantity, needles, and pattern) in order to make the scarf. Very useful help for beginners, and, in fact, we saw one young lady being helped with some problems she had while we were there.

The shop sells most lines of Plymouth Brand (from Bristol, PA, where the company has no storefront - it's wholesale only).
Below is the puff daddy scarf. It needs a "hair cut", but is finished - it took The Better Half about two hours to knit from the ball of baby alpaca (Plymouth, colour 8818) last
night while watching TV.

As a matter of curiosity, I wonder if readers could answer this question:

Many people are horrified at the suggested price of hard-knit socks. Would you consider paying, say, $40 for a scarf ? If you have thoughts, please comment.

More soon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What we get up to on Tuesdays

Every Tuesday the Better Half and I drive about ten miles to the town of Haddonfield and join about 20-25 others in a wildly successful Stitch 'n' Bitch. I say "wildly" because it's been going for just on a year now and has over twenty regular members, and is still attracting more.

This (left) is a shot from last week, showing our Illustrious Leader giving a lot of thought to a knotty problem - or maybe whether to have another coffee or not! H and B are also in there.

Here we see The Better Half (right) with Broadway, The Lion in Lamb's Clothing, knitting a present for her Surgeon.
As you can see, she has The Baby Computer with her, to refer to Ravelry, of course, or check my blogs !

One of our newer additions are a pair of med students. Here's (soon-to-be-Dr) A., avoiding the gaze of her garter-scarf. It really is as good as it looks there!

There'll be more tomorrow - I hope - as we've been out visiting yarn shops again.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Honey! I Shrank The Kids (' PC) !

Before everything else: greetings to all at the Haddonfield Stitch 'n' Bitch, and thanks to them all for their concern for my wife. They're totally wicked good!

Once upon a time there was a student of Electronics and Electrical Engineering. He worked hard and diligently on his simulation and, when the specification was ready and his supervisor had approved it, he sent it off to be processed by the University SuperComputer.
Next day he received a communication in his computer mail-box (email as we know it now hadn't been invented then) inviting him to come and visit the head of his department. With some trepidation he went, to find his professor, his department head, and also the head of his school awaiting him. Obviously this wasn't to be a good day !
He was told of the bad news ... his simulation, which was supposed to have lasted about 10 cpu-seconds, had taken up the entire college's allocation of time for the rest of the year! [oops]! Oh well: it actually wasn't his fault, they agreed - he's exposed a flaw in the simulation program he was told to use. However, he wasn't to use that system again. Excretia, as they say, happens.
A little later in life this same student was working at a famous and prestigious institute when the decision was taken to change computer systems. The old one occupied a room and had two operators always on-call. It was removed one day and in its place a man arrived with a panel truck. He brought a desk and two crates out of that truck. He opened the crates and pushed the two white boxes (on wheels) inside out into the room. After the crates were removed, a terminal was put on the desk, the two boxes connected to each other and the terminal, and the whole lot plugged in and switched on. That was it! 250 square feet of computer gone in a morning !
The first of these three computers had about a tenth of the power of the second, and was kept in a dust-free room. The last, ten or more times more powerful again, came in a couple of boxes. I'm sure you can see where this is going.
The next project saw our intrepid engineer working with mini-computers to process CAT scans into 3-D images for doctors to do diagnoses and radio-therapy simulations with - something that the SuperComputer couldn't have done ten years before. At about this time he was given his first PC ("Personal Computer"). It was a surplus PDP-11 in 3 19" racks, each about 80" tall. Very cool, and he didn't need any heating in his apartment that winter!
The project after that saw him replacing a small mini-computers with first-generation PCs (because they were faster, more robust, and more easily re-programmable).
Since then, PCs have become more and more capable. IBM's original architecture has been expanded but shows remarkable longevity. Right now I develop on a 17" Acer that's about 2 years old and suddenly in dire need of a re-install of Windows. My Christmas present to myself last December was an Asus 1000ha in what was called "red" by the advertisers. Of course, it is more "pink", as you can see in the pics, so The Better Half appropriated it on the spot!

I got this just as it hit the market, in December 2008. There were lots of glowing reviews at the time, all of pre-release versions, so how has it stood up to three months of use? Has it actually been useful for three months??

The Review
First off, lets look at it in a purely (sort of) quasi-scienific way. Here are the good bits:
  • The price - $350 plus another $30 for a memory expansion
  • The size - 10.5 x 7.5.
  • The weight 3 lbs. The battery is denser than the rest of the machine, is rounded, and is at the back, so it's a nice place hild it when it's being carried
  • The hard drive - 160 GB is a good hefty size, especially for a machine this size.
  • The pouch that comes with it - and the micro-fibre cleaning cloth !
  • The resilience. I wouldn't suggest playing basketball with it, but it fell off my wife's hospital bed a few days ago and hit the iron table feet on the way down. Ouch! I feared the worst, of course. It looked like screen was trashed to begin with, but, believe it or not, it seems to be recovering ! There's just a small pair of lines there now (4 days later) and even they seem to be fading. Will I get a replacement screen? yes. Do I really need it ? Not really, but when I do they won't be available, so ...
  • The resilience again ! The case wasn't even scratched, and the hard drive is fine.
  • The long battery life. It isn't the boasted 7 hours, but 4 hours is fine by me.
  • The camera.
  • The software - MS Works kinda sucks but is good for compatibility. Star Office is great and should be bundled with more PCs. It does pretty much everything you want for an office suite. All the other software works perfectly. That's a novelty in this world!
  • The SD card slot! I was wondering how to get some pix off my camera without paying a fortune ... and then I came across this little slot ! I promise you - I didn't realise it was there for 3 months !
  • The screen resolution. It's good, but if you tell it you have a huge screen it'll believe you and then let you use the screen you can see as a sort of a porthole into what is suddenly a huge screen. A little weird to begin with but really useful for having lots of things up at the same time and not getting in each others' way.
  • I'm recording all my old LPs and cassettes onto it and then burning them onto CDs. Totally easy and lots of cpu speed for that. Tip: Use Blaze RipEditBurn Plus. Right now it's $40 and worth at least $80.
  • It picks up Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) more easily than any other PC I've seen.
And here are some bad bits:
  • It doesn't come with a mouse. There are virtually-flat mice these days, and it wouldn't be too hard to create a mouse-hole !
  • The keyboard isn't quite big enough for me. Mind you, neither is a full-sized one, so maybe I'm just clumsy ! Maybe they could revive the old IBM ThinkPad expanding keyboard ?
  • The hard drive. They split it into two partitions!!!! Mind you, they're equal, so C: is bigger than most Dell servers have !
  • The fact that the wife / girlfriend will appropriate it almost as soon as they see it - yes, it really is that cute!
  • It's slow. But that was mainly when I'd installed MS SQL Server on it. AfterI took that monster off it ran great again. Let's face it, it's not server material but, then again, would you lock 25 things as cute as this up in a rack ?!
  • I want another one but have to wait. This is definitely the biggest beef!
The Verdict
I like it. I like the general ease of everything about it. I got the Windows version because I needed to use certain specific programs with it, and I've found it totally adequate for everything I've asked it to do.
I have to admit that I like the attention it gets ! Pretty much everywhere either I or my wife have used it we've been accosted by people asking about it. Not just young people or geeks, either. Little kids looking for info so they could harass their parents for one - grannies with white hair interested in it and whether they can push their children into buying it for them !
All in all, this is a hit machine. Somewhat of a chick-magnet, like a chocolate lab, but with a serious inside, like a chocolate lab who's also a guide dog. Eminently desirable; if you're looking for a new PC, look hard at this. Also, don't forget that if you don't want the laptop format, that it also comes as a desktop - equally neatly packaged! These guys must have Jonathan Ive moonlighting for their design department.

The bottom line? Buy it.

The Great Escape !

Now Monday is over I've actually got time to sit down and tell the end of the story.

So, on Saturday night The Better Half woke at 7.45 with very little pain, and all of that seemingly a result of having four holes more than she had entered the hospital with! What a wonderful thing being pain-free is. Those of you who haven't experienced real pain (and that probably includes most of us who've never given birth) probably won't know the relief when pain that absolutely makes you want to die gives up and goes away. I can't say that I do. However, I saw the difference in The Better Half, and that's enough for me. I can believe that Gall Stones are one of the most painful things just by seeing - I can definitely pass the experience by! Our surgeon, Dr. K., stopped by and said that The Better Half could go home after a couple of meals. Sounded good to us. So good, in fact, that he was promised a pair of hand-knit socks there-and-then, on the spot. He seemed pleased!

Sunday dawned bright and (as it usually does) early. Breakfast didn't happen for The Better Half, so that meal didn't get to be one of the two. It didn't look like she was getting lunch either, but her name was placed on the list literally at the last moment, and there it was: a slice of turkey and a fair imitation of an MRE version of a Thanksgiving Meal! It kind-of tasted ok, especially the pieces of fruit on the side.

So, we waited for dinner. I told you that hospital life was like the military life - short periods of adrenaline use interspersed with long periods of intense boredom. A peckish 4 pm became a hungry 5 pm, and the nurse arrived to ask how dinner had been. She was greeted with blank looks: "Dinner? what dinner? Isn't my wife on the starvation diet?". She wasn't amused, I think - judging by the words uttered as she sped off to arrange food as fast as possible - maybe she actually wanted to get rid of us!

Food arrived, was satisfactorily consumed, and The Better Half was approved for departure. We grabbed all belongings, signed papers, and were en route to the ground floor. We saw why we were rushed out. The ward was suddenly half-empty and the ER wasn't sending up more occupants. In times like that some nurses are let off early for the day. The ones that remain tend to get a slightly heavier workload, so getting rid of another patient made life easier for them.

Today (Monday) The Better Half spent resting and contemplating the use of a brand-new Cuisinart toaster - this evening she built a bear to celebrate not being in hospital any more.

The Thanks

Thanks go out to Brian and Ryan for being there when asked for, Mitzi and Apollo for visiting at a great time, April for the Tulips (they really do close at night and open in the light !), The Better Half's Mum, Dad, and Gram (the flowers really were good, and I hope I kept you up to date), and likewise Cindi, Flora, Jessica, Jane, Debra, Alison, Sheryl, Ali and Jenna and everyone else in Haddonfield, Woolbearers and everyone else who said "Hi and Get Well Soon" !

For those of you here from FaeryKnits,
Normal Service Will Soon Be Resumed

Normal service will also resume here ... a mixture of code and yarn and some comment on the insanities of the world.

One last wish to you all: be far from having gall stones!

We can be found on exhibition at the Haddonfield Stitch 'n' Bitch on Tuesday evenings, in Woolbearers on the first Friday of the month (oops ! sorry - missed April's - drat!) and most Sunday afternoons. Also, we anticipate, at the MD Sheep & Wool this year.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

You don't Think That You're Getting Out Of Here - Do You ?

Yup. Well. The title kinda says it all. 3.30 we were back in the ward but by 4.00 The Better Half was in severe enough pain to be given 2 ml (I think) of morphine. Unfortunately, morphine just doesn't touch some pains in some people. ... and it took us until 6 pm to get the House Doctor and convince him that we really needed pain relief for The Better Half. 6 pm, pain killer administered, and The Better Half is getting some sleep.

More soon, but definitely no knitting appearances until Tuesday at the nearest.

Now Really Hurry Up !!

"Ok" says the nurse, "we're going for your test" to my Better Half. "What test would be?", ask I innocently, knowing fiull-well that The Better Half would be asking me for the use of a fire axe if the medics stuck her with any more needles! When I arrived this morning her IV was in a different place. Apparently the staff decided to move it in the night - it took 4 people and 2 hours to get it inserted into a vein again. No bad reflection on the staff or anything ... The Better Half just has EV - Evasive Veins !

The nurse rattles off a set of four letters, obviously in the expectation that I would understand just exactly what she meant. Remaining in "innocent" mode I asked her what that meant and whether it was a test or a procedure, as we had been waiting 24 hours for a procedure, not another test. "Procedure and Test are the same thing" she said, carefully avoiding eye-contact. "But what does it mean", I ask; " - the acronym". I get an evasive answer, along the lines of what it is, rather than what it's name is, which is what I asked. Oh well.

A few minutes later we're down on the ground floor and in radiography, which is where it's done, because of some dye used to enable the doctor to see what's going on. 3.15 and The Better Half has vanished, with the various offerings that, assuming all goes well, she may well be sleeping in her own bed tonight. That'll be nice!

For those interested, here's a good site for the gall bladder procedure.

... 15 mins later and she's out again. 3 stones lighter and able to go home tonight. Good for Dr. E. here!!

Hurry up ! ......... and Wait !

So the Gall Bladder was removed. Nice one. However, there are still stones left to get. The Doctors will get them from the "other end". Not a problem, we understand. A short procedure. Easily explained. Could be done tonight, but probably tomorrow morning or midday.


That was Thursday afternoon.

This is Friday night. No procedure. A whole day lying around in bed doing very little indeed. 2 pm we were told "this afternoon" and "this guy is the best in the region for this procedure". By 8 pm that had changed to "leave for the Operating Theatre about 10 pm". At 9.30 that abruptly changed into a cancellation (current procedure likely to take up to 1 am). Schedule for first thing Saturday morning.

Personally, I think a notification when things started getting delayed would have been nice (we had to pry the info out of the system!). Also, if this procedure goes until 1 am, I think that "first thing Saturday" is too early for the surgeon to be well-rested.

We'll see.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Doctors Strike Back

The latest update from the war front is that we've won the first major battle! The Gall Salient has been excised and removed laparoscopically. However, there are still elements of the enemy (rogue stones wandering around on their own) that need to be cleared up. This will take the use of another unit - The Gastro-Enterologists. They'll be entering the fray either this evening or tomorrow morning.

Stay tuned for further news!

The War Continues !

Welcome to the continuing story of The Better Half vs The Gall Bladder !
  • Yesterday afternoon The Gall Bladder struck ! It inflicted large amounts of Excruciating Pain and some waves of nausea. The Better Half survived, although battered and very unhappy. Support rallied at 5 (me), 6 (the hospital doctors), and at 7 (the home teachers).
  • Last night, the M weapon was used to blunt the atack and Tests were employed to confirm the analysis of the attack.
  • This morning further tests were made and strategy formulated.
  • This afternoon the strategy is going into effect. The Better Half has been prepped and is now in the Operating Theatre for the counter-attack (the plucking-out of the offending organ).
Stay tuned for more details as they happen.

Oh! What a Wonderful War

Hi everyone. This one will be real short ! Yesterday seemed to be going "ok". The Better Half was at home, reducing the entropy of the planet, I was slaving over a hot terminal at work, helping the lot of those injured in auto accidents in NJ and other states, and the Offspring was doing his homework and looking forward to Daddy taking him out for dinner.

Such, as I'm sure you know, is a typical plan laid by mouse or man and, as I'm sure you've heard, the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley ("To a Mouse", Robert Burns). I got home last night to find The Better Half literally almost screaming in agony! Off to the hospital we go, thinking that she might have been poisoned. That magical word got us fairly rapid attention from the triage nurse, but luckily for naught. The reason for all the sudden agony appears to be gall stones and a blocked gall bladder. The word from this household is "don't get gall stones" ! The Better Half describes the pain as "considerably worse than childbirth".

So, several hours in the ER later, she's moved from the tender care of that department (thank you very much to J. and Dr. F. for all your care - you were great!), and we're now upstairs in the Acute Surgical Care Unit. Many thanks to nurse S. here - just beware of those bears !

I got to bed at about 3.30 this morning and was woken up at 7 to the news that The Better Half was going in to tests at 8. I managed to get out of bed, showered, and in to the hospital by 9 (I don't do mornings at short notice!) to find an empty bed! The Better Half was still in tests.

Since then she's back, had a foot rub and new clean (hand-knit) socks, and we got prayed over by a very nice man from the chaplain's department. Mention here to nurse J., who's being super-nice and helpful.

Slight interruption before closing this blog. We have just had a couple of visits from Dr. S.K., who examined further and confirmed all that Dr. F. opined last night. The Better Half is now on the "stand-by" list for the operating theatres here for today or, if not today, then definitely on the list for tomorrow.

We hope for today, of course, so that she can get to Woolbearers for KnitKnight tomorrow evening!

More later. Remember to be cautious around bears (they don't carry bar-code-readers).