Monday, October 19, 2009

Rhinebeck 2009 - 3

Well, this took a day or so to get to, but you'll have to wait for a post or two to find out why.
Between the first two barns was a rather unusual structure - a yurt. No! not a Hollywood-style plastic yurt, but a genuine Turkish yurt. If you think that they're only from the steppes of central Asia, think a little longer: the turkish people only arrived in what is no
w Turkey a little over a thousand years ago. The yurt is a convenient and portable structure well suited to nomadic people, and, as people found who entered this one, very warm indeed, even with two open doors.

Yurts are made of felted material - sheep wool or horsehair in Asia, probably, and are held upright wi
th thin wooden supports. Inside this one was a display of art on woolen items, including this piece of material with images of a bird and two people, found in a town called Catal Huyuk, from about 6000 yeas ago.

The people appear to be headless, which accounts for their positions - lying down. A bird-cult? Who
knows. Anyhow, the yurt was staffed by people from Ikonium, who are very friendly and have lots of fun stories to tell and info about felting to provide.

Between the second and third barns were a pair of lines of outdoor stalls - very cold for the poor vendors - where we found, amongst others, CreativelyDyedYarns. Dianne Lutz produces hand-dyed yarn of various mixes, including some wonderfully soft mix of wool and seaweed! I want it called Mermaid Tresses, and, like all her yarn, had beautiful colours.

Finally for this episode, some local colour. I believe this worthy was employed to
keep the sheep under control: certainly they were all well controlled.

More rambling very soon Photos all on Photobucket.
PS. The MD Sheep & Wool was back here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rhinebeck 2009 - 2

Okay, everyone - here come the pictures!
First, the line in. This was just a snap of the people arriving at 8.15 in the morning - opening was 9 am.

Although insisted that it was 42F, it really wasn't very warm all day. For example, you may think that this is a cute picture of a bunny rabbit, but, in fact, there are three white rabbits and at least one black one, all huddled together for warmth!
Above are silk & rayon velvet scarves. We were admiring the colours as the early sun shone through them.
We were looking for Kermit, but I think he's put some weight on recently !

Here's a longer look at some of the booths in the first barn, and the display of yarn at DyeDreams.

Left is a woman's cardigan from Jan, The Village Weaver from Sugarcreek, OH. She had some really nice cardigans and sweaters - for men and women - and I really think I'll be getting one - they look gorgeous!

Right is a collection of little stuffed animals. Things like these seemed to be quite popular at the fair.

The sheep incognito pictures from Conni Tögel were here, just like at Maryland. When you go to a fair with these you have got to see them - if you have the money, buy one! They are just so funny!

Well, Blogger seems to be having upload problems here, so I'll add more in the next blog.
Meantime, you should be able to go here to see all the pictures. Unfortunately, they're in reverse order and I haven't worked out how to get pics in the order I want them yet!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rhinebeck 2009 - 1

For those not "in the know", the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival is one of the major festivals for people involved in knitting in North America. It's in a small town of the same name in eastern New York state, about 25 miles from the Connecticut border, and the AG and I decided many long months to save up our pennies and go to it this year. So here we are, just waking up and getting ready for breakfast, in the Super8 in Danbury, CT, which is about 40 miles from Rhinebeck.

On the outskirts of the town we stopped at a fabric and yarn store called The Fabric Tree. This is mostly a fabric store, and the yarn section had a selection of Plymouth yarns. I caught this neatly fishy bag in the window.

st night we wandered around Danbury (a confusing town to drive in - especially at night). The last time I was here was when I was at a Ventura Publisher conference on the week of September 11, 2001, so I don't remember much of the town from then. It seems a nice place - we stopped in one grocery store for a couple of things and ended up buying rice and plantains 'cos they smelled so good.

It would be a nice morning drive in, we thought in June. Last week we were becoming a little less sure of that, as we watched the Weather Channel offer dire snow warnings for this weekend! Right now Danbury is a little above freezing, and Rhinebeck just on, but both are just cloudy and neither is expecting rain until later in the day. It looks like the bullet missed us! OTOH, it may all be wrong, and we may be several feet deep in snow up to our knees and more by the end of the day !

I'll be trying to remember to be camera-mad during the day, and post pictures tonight.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Now Hear This !!

This time I'm going to talk about the 'flu. If you don't want to read on - fair enough. If you have some strong views about getting vaccinated (or not), the please read on. You don't have to be convinced, but at least read on with an open mind, and try to follow my arguments (assuming I don't make some horrendous blunder in the middle !). References to what I've said before: see here for a short update on H1N1, and also here for an entry that has references to other sites with more info.

Firstly, some definitions. Influenza is a virus. That means that antibiotics are not any use against it. At all. The body (human or other) defends against viruses by "learning" to recognise the intrinsic "shape" of the virus and then attacking anything with that shape. Something with a very similar shape may be "recognised" in the same way (as being "close enough"), whereas a sufficiently different shape will not trigger the reaction. A vaccine to protect you against a virus has to be able to train your body to react against a new shape. The best way to do this is to introduce your body to the real thing - actually getting infected! However, that's not normally recommended, so we normally use an infection with a virus that has been killed. Even dead, it has the same shape and will teach your body what to react against. Some virus vaccines are alive, but very much weakened: these should really only be taken in emergency or by those not considered at high risk of serious consequences from getting the virus for real.

Talking about risk, you should remember that there are two very different risks here: the risk of contracting the disease and the risk of suffering serious or fatal results when you do contract it. Mathematically, if you have a 1 in 10 chance of getting it, and a 1 in 10 chance of dieing from it, then of the 10 people in 10 that get it, just one can be expected to die. This factoring is often skipped over, both by people trying to calm the masses and also by people trying to inflame fear and uncertainty.

So, to history. About 90 years ago, in 1917, it is believed that there was the beginning of an outbreak of 'flu in China, although this is only a little more than informed speculation and educated guesswork. Little seems to be known of it until later in 1918, when ut started spreading, first in the military and then into the civilian populations in Europe. It is often called Spanish Flu, because many of people contracted it in Spain, where there was also a high death rate amongst the affected. It spread via the trade routes of the world, and affected almost the whole human population, killing millions more than the Great War itself. For reference, see here.

One unusual characteristic of the 1918 'flu was that it's effects were most severely felt in the 15-34 age range, showing a death rate maybe 20 times higher than with previous varieties of the 'flu.

Since the four year of the 1918 Spanish Flu, the strains we have seen have returned to the virulence known before those years. We've had scares about Avian 'Flu, and other things in the last few years, but in 2009 we appear to be back in the cross-hairs again!

About six months ago
a disease that popularly became known as the "Swine Flu" hit Mexico, spread throughout the USA, and has since become pandemic throughout the world. A lot of people died of what is now called "H1N1 influenza", especially in Mexico, but quite a few in the USA and Europe. One characteristic that was noted by an interviewee on an NPR program one Saturday afternoon was that the H1N1 seemed to affect its victims in a way remarkably similar to the symptoms seen in 1918 - that is, the people most severely affected by it are the 15-34 age range! Now, on CNN today, comes an article that repeats this view.

Up until now it has always been considered that a valid explanation for this characteristic of the Spanish Flu was that these groups were preferentially targeted because they were the targets available. This age group was roughly that which was most involved in the previous four years of war. However, that should not explain the similar impact on the population of the USA, which had only experienced about a year of warfare, and of other countries' populations. This was a question that was never properly explained by the idea that it was people weakened by war that were more susceptible, hence the continuing scientific efforts to obtain "infected" DNA from exhumed corpses of the era.

So now for the idea of getting protection against the Thing. Before I start, I should state here that I am on a drug for arthritis (Enbrel) that is an immuno-suppressant, so I have already had a vaccination against the "standard" 'flu this year. Firstly because if I get it then I'll really get it badly, and secondly because if I get 'flu then the doctors won't have to wonder about whether its "standard" 'flu - it won't be. I have no problem in saying that I paid $25 for it at a Walgreen's in NJ, and that it hurt far far less than accidentally pricked with a pin or needle. For more specific info, please see here, which gives a good, concise list of things to think about. Walgreens and CVS, by the way, will give you vaccine without charge if you are unemployed and looking for work. The vaccine for the "standard" 'flu is prepared in exactly the same was as it has been for the last 10 or more years, and has very few risks (the last link describes the risks that do exist).

The H1N1 vaccine is a brand-new vaccine, but created in the same way as the "standard" variety, so will have the same caveats as above. It has been created from intensive research carried out world-wide since last Spring. There are two things to consider here: will it work and will it be available in time. Efficacy is something that only time will tell - we won't know until either nobody with it gets sick or a lot of people do. Availability is another matter. This version of the 'flu is not a seasonal variety, but can be expected to become more severe during the Winter, just like the Spanish Flu did in the four years it ravaged the world.

Some people are worried that the components of the vaccine - aside from the actual vaccine and water there are some preservatives, etc. - can be dangerous. The CDC has reported that some H1N1 shots will contain the preservative Thimerosal, and others won't. Your doctor will know what your shot contains - when I got mine from Walgreens they gave me a pamphlet that explained exactly what was in each type (there were two available), including things like other ingredients. Some people have expressed concern about Thimerosal for children because it's mercury-based, but the CDC states there is no scientific evidence the preservative is harmful.

Other people have expressed (to me) worries that the risks of taking the vaccine are greater than those of not taking it and possibly getting the 'flu. This is a very difficult equation to balance in order to see which way to go. On the one side there is a mathematically describable measurement of how likely you are to get the 'flu, and, if you do, how likely it is to be at any particular severity, from very mild to deadly. On the other side is the same piece of mathematics about the likelihood of being damaged by the vaccine, and the subsequent likelihood of getting the 'flu, and the consequences of that, too! If all that isn't enough, you also have to give mathematical values to how bad you consider degrees of sickness to be! The particular problem with all the above is that there are no numbers for them yet - these won't exist until the 'flu has happened to people, and, by that time, it'll maybe be too late!

So, life is hard. Yes. My personal opinion is that getting 'flu is such a bad experience (I had it when I was 18 and haven't forgotten since!) that I really don't want it again, especially as I don't have an effective immune system any more. So I'm getting the H1N1 jab as soon as I can.

Back soon - stay healthy !


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

... and the News from New Jersey ...

The AG "crafts". That is to say, she makes physical things that are of practical use to herself and others. Whereas I have, on occasion and when the need has been apparent, been known to produce carpentry and items of metallic mechanics. The AG, on the other hand, takes pieces of sheep and transforms them. Yes - I do the same - using my teeth, but she uses needles and wool - she knits. Socks, shawls, scarves, gloves, and hats. You've maybe seen some of these on this blog. She also takes existing knitware (old sweaters) and turns it into more useful things like handbags. She produces hats and gloves from polar fleece (i.e. shredded plastic water bottles), and pouches from handles of old shop bags.
So where are we right now, and why am I te all .lling you all this?

Read on !

weeks ago we went to a craft fair at the end of our road. The AG has done this before, but I haven't. Being the dyed-in-the-wool geek that I am, she was fairly sure that I was going to be bored out of my mind and going to slope off quietly to find a pint or ten of Guinness at the nearest pub. Well, curiously enough, I wasn't bored at all. In fact, I was quite happy for two whole days away from the keyboard. We sold enough to cover our stall fees, cover food for the two days, and pay a couple of bills. Not a huge amount at all, but encouraging.

But why was I not unhappy to be parted from my PC ? Remember: this isn't really something that's happened more than three or four times in the last thirty years! (and you thought that you were addicted to computers!). Partly it was novelty, and the enjoyment of being with the AG all day. A lot of it, however was, I believe, down to our neighbours. One, just on Sunday,was a lady selling decorated bottles. On the other side, however, was a family selling picture frames that the wife had made. They were attractive and well made, and the family themselves were warm, welcoming, and friendly to their "newbie" neighbours - us.

The next week we went to a town open day nearby, and had about the same amount of success, but without the same friendly neighbours. The new neighbours were friendly enough - don't let me mislead you - but those on that first weekend were definitely superior!

The Much-Troubled Laptop.
Well, the SD's Acer Aspire
One came to me last Thursday. It looked just as it would have done when it first came from the factory, except that there was no extra software on it. Nothing - just a note to say that there was a new hard drive in it together with standard software.

Here it is again - for real, this time, and not just company pictures. Here it's just starting up. You can see (if you enlarge the picture) the camera at the top-centre of the picture. You can pull images in from that into your applications if your application knows about a standard called TWAIN. If you're in a word processor (OOo Writer, for example) you select Insert and Picture. Then you choose Scan (not From File) and then Select Source. Once you've selected your source (Camera, Scanner, ...) you can go the same route and choose Acquire and get
an image. Easy!

BTW, if you're wondering, the laptop peeking in around the corner is the edge of my 17" Acer laptop, it's almost three years old now. It also had a disk catastrophe in the first three months of its life, and it too was fixed by Acer. No problems since then, I'm happy to say!

Anyway, I stuffed it full of software that the SD needs and sent it off to her on Saturday, so she should get it tomorrow or Wednesday. Have fun, M !!


...and the Home of the Brave ???

October 4th: From the Chicago Tribune:
Obama was told a trip to Olympics meeting may clinch Chicago win
Up until a few days before flying to Copenhagen, Obama was not sold on the idea. He was concerned he would be gone when the healthcare debate hit the House or Senate floor.
In the run-up to the Olympics vote, the White House was getting a clear message from the architects of Chicago's bid: Balloting would be tight, and a personal visit to Copenhagen from President Obama just might lock in a victory.
October 5th: From the Daily Telegraph:
Obama refuses Dalai Lama meeting 'to please China'
President Barack Obama has refused to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington this week in a move to curry favour with the Chinese. The decision came after China stepped up a campaign urging nations to shun the Tibetan spiritual leader.
It means Mr Obama will become the first president not to welcome the Nobel peace prize winner to the White House since the Dalai Lama began visiting Washington in 1991.
The leadership of the US appears to have found a very ineffective set of advisers for itself. This would not set the US apart from many other countries, of course, but it would set today's US apart from most of its own history. Depending on one's political viewpoint one can easily disagree with many of the decisions made by presidents over the last, say, 70 years, but one can usually see that the decisions were designed with a longer-term aim in mind. Nixon's moves toward the PRC are a good case in point. Clinton's measured reactions to al qaida and other terrorist attacks is another good example of restraint and preparation.
The current leadership appears to have recruited some advisers who suffer from the same malaise as much of the rest of the western world - the demand for instant gratification and the worship of the almighty poll survey.
President Obama has, at present, a fairly small number of important projects to manage, and, in my opinion, should not allow himself to be sidetracked into actions that may or may not contribute to his success in the major areas.
The major areas are, again in my opinion:
  • The formulation of a properly planned, articulated, and implemented strategy for Iraq and Afghanistan, changing the current reactive and mainly-military strategy into a strategy for rebuilding these countries, turning them into places where the people look on Americans and Britons automatically as their friends, just as the people of Europe did after the last world war.
  • The adoption of a stance on nuclear proliferation that can be supported by Russia, if not China. The adoption of this limited version of Realpolitik would improve US standing in the eyes of Russia and Europe as well as, hopefully, obtaining the desired prevention (see Dennis Ross' book on statecraft).
  • The pursuit of a publicly-popular and fiscally- responsible policy towards the financial institutions of the USA. These corporations have taken public monies and now proceed to disburse huge individual rewards while refraining from the actions that the granting of money was explicitly intended to achieve. The American public is genuinely unhappy to see that while their boss cannot meet payroll because he or she cannot get a loan to expand to win a new contract, the banks are happily spending huge amounts of money buying each other up.
  • The aggressive and enthusiastic promotion of development of a general reduction of the usage of energy sources that contribute to the destruction of the climate. "Clean coal" is, without a huge future investment, a complete oxymoron. Natural gas is cleaner than oil, but certainly not clean in any absolute sense. Nuclear fission power is, for the moment, probably the most reliable energy source that is also least harmful to our environment in the immediate future, despite the justified worries about the future of the associated waste. One must break eggs in order to bake a cake, as the saying goes: it will be necessary to make some limited damage to the environment in order to prevent much worse damage.
  • The public initiation of planning with Canada to coordinate the migration of agriculture as the global climate changes. If the climate warms and dries, as expected, in the grasslands and praries of the centre of the continent, the agricultural "prime zone" for many crops will move north, so the two countries must plan together to adjust their economies for this.
  • The increase of diplomatic efforts to achieve the beginnings of peaceful relations between the various countries in the Middle East. Every authority from every side seems to have entered this arena with lofty goals, only to fand themselves flattened in short order. Perhaps the promotion of less lofty aims will enable the countries involved to obtain a firmer grounding for long-term peace.
Flying around the globe at the beck and call of every group who can bend the ears of his advisers is not the way for the leader of any country to behave.

More Geekiness next time, I'm sure!