Friday, January 30, 2009

The Difference Engine

I saw a nice hour-long film tonight, about the development in the early 1800s of two interesting machines, both designed by Charles Babbage. The first was called the Difference Engine, and it was partly built when he developed another, more complex device (an Analysis Engine) which was never actually built, but whose plans were dusted off in the mid-20th century and used to create the first true computer. Ada Lovelace, daughter of the famous English poet Lord Byron (though she never knew him; her parents separated when she was an infant and her father left England) and an intelligent, educated mother, was trained in mathematics. She, far more than Charles Babbage, grasped the enormous possibilities of the more complex machine, and "got" the idea that the numbers that were calculated could represent non-numeric values (think ASCII code, for instance). She also considered the workings of electricity. But she died while still young (at age 36, I believe) of illness, knowing she was leaving behind notes and published articles that others would use to pursue her ideas.

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, currently has a model of the Difference Engine on display, so here's a rather dark and dramatic photo of it. The machine stands about 7 feet tall and occupies a footprint approx 3 feet by 6 feet.

Link to better photos, more info:

-- Rachel

Boy, is this FUN!

Here are me (standing, in the white sweater) and some new friends from my table at the pre-conference "She's Geeky" dinner. I had a great time and I'll be there for the next two days.

-- Rachel

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fabric design - Lonni Rossi

My quilt guild had a lecture last night by Lonni Rossi, who does amazing stuff with textile paints. LonniRossi dot com.

She does a lot of it by painting fabric outdoors (she has a table that lets her mount fabric inside a huge frame, approx 42" wide and 5 yards long, so the fabric is open to the ground rather than being set on a table), then setting objects onto it. Her paint is pebeo setacolor, and as it dries, of course the UNcovered areas dry first, so she gets impressions of whatever objects were set onto the paint. She has used rice, every kind of leaf imaginable, radial saw blades, grass, letters cut out of sheet metal or cardboard. She also creates silkscreens and quasi-silkscreens that let her print text onto fabric (for this she sometimes uses white paint tinted with color, over black fabric). One of her signature "looks" is to end with a heavy metallic overlay on parts of the fabric.

I may have to try toothpicks, small rocks, buttons.

-- Rachel

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Discount code for SHE'S GEEKY

Probably too late now. Email me if you want one. Pre-reg ended Tues, at midnight.

Info: "She's Geeky the women's tech conference starts on Friday.

We have an amazing list of sessions proposed.
It is an unconference - so that means the women gathered create the agenda (in a facilitated process)

It is just a great event for women techies to connect and learn from each other. We provide breakfast, lunch, snacks and esspresso. **You are welcome to bring your daughters along.**

The Secretary of State of California who is very geeky signed up on her own to come on Saturday.

Friday Night we are showing the Ada Lovelace Movie at the Computer History Museum at 6pm.

Pre-Dinner on Thursday night is with Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner at Ming's in Palo Alto at 6:30
(registration at 5:30)"

--- I personally wouldn't want to miss this. ---

-- Rachel

Monday, January 26, 2009

White Violets appeared by magic

I had no idea that I had white violets in my yard -- and yet here they are, growing next to the driveway! I haven't bent down to sniff them, and with only three flowers I will not pick them.

-- Rachel

Internet Shop Hop for Quilters

FabShop Hop - Enter to Win!

You can participate in a fun contest by clicking the link above. Visit as many quilt shop websites as you can, and find the bunny logo hidden in each one.

-- Rachel Holmen

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

SHE'S GEEKY conference in 2 weeks

I signed up within 48 hours of hearing about this conference. SHE'S GEEKY will be held in Mountain View on Jan. 30 and 31 (with some kind of introductory dinner on Thurs. the 29th). Sounds like fun. -- Rachel Holmen

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Go, George Henne! NS Basic 7 beta released

For Palm PDA geeks, NS Basic is a solid programming environment. The company is run by George Henne, a Canadian who stands behind his product. My email told me today that the version 7 beta is now available for testing, so I'll have to check it out. I've already written a time-card program and program that does the calculations that quiltmakers always seemd to need, using an older version. I'll have to try and port them to the new version.

Another plus: there is a clear, understandable book on how to USE this programming language, written by Michael Verive who also gives free tech support online (go, Michael!!) in the user forum at the NS Basic site.

Here's the link: NS Basic dot com slash Palm.

Now, there is ONE thing you must understand: the software which creates the applications runs on a Windows PC. But the applications run on a Palm PDA. (Henne also offers versions for other platforms, including various cell phones and SOON...iPHONE!!!)

-- Rachel Holmen


Gusty winds; I feel well enoug to go back to work tomorrow but will I *ever* get to sleep? Just as I drift off, another wind-mob snarls around the yard and threatens to tear down the fence.

-- R

Monday, January 12, 2009


Ladybug, from BUGSMART.CA
Usually I grab my blue-jacketed New York Times as I dash to the car on the way to the office. Today, however, I'm recovering from a virus that has me coughing a lot and sounding RAHther froggish. So I didn't collect the paper until nearly noon, and discovered a lovely warm day. (Sorry, those of you are in the cold; this *is* California.) I picked up the paper and there was a ladybug on the wrapper! I gently moved it to my gardenia bush, sorely infested with scale (nasty hard-shelled buglets that, like aphis, suck the sap from plants where they live). The bug walked slowly up to the topmost leaf, tried to take another step, then turned around and walked back. Sometimes it would stop and flex its wings, which must be damp -- first the right wing would come out, but the left would stay firmly put; then closed, then the other wing, but never both. I expect when it can unfurl both wings it will fly away, but I can hope it will stay and attack the scale

I'm sure we'll have some more nasty days, and heaven knows the whole state needs RAIN, but for today, some sun is nice. (I watched AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH recently so I *am* trying to think of ways to personlly stop contributing to the CO2 problem. I already use casual carpool and busses for my commute, but I may have to give up casual carpool since it requires me to drive to the pickup point. Taking the bus both way adds $3.75*20 or so each month to my expenses -- a lot on a nonprofit paycheck. Can I afford to, in effect, donate $75 a month to the future?)

-- Rachel Holmen

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Farewell, Gaston

Gaston le Bon arrived at my friend Carla's a couple of months back, a tiny kitten probably only a few weeks old; nobody knew where its mother was. Carla and various friends gave him tiny bottles of kitten formula, then he graduated to actual food, and he was growing up quite playful and handsome.

Sadly, he was hit and killed by a car today.

Au revoir, dear kitten. -- Rachel

Sunday, January 04, 2009

More patterns

Dos de Tejas (literally, two from Texas) is one of several mother-and-son pattern companies. Here's their terrific Tresillo skirt. The Spectrum Dress is nice, too, and so's the Texas Two Step shirt that has a freestanding back yoke -- almost like a short cape -- which offers a wonderful chance for embellishment.

And then there's the Park Bench Pattern Company, which offers wonderful "trunk shows" and where the designer brings actual sample clothes for you to try on right in her booth before you buy her patterns. I'm particularly fond of the Williamsburg, the Woodstock skirt (all straight seams lead to a FABulous swingy long skirt), the Chesapeake Bay jacket, Golden Gate Park, and the wonderful Santa Fe jacket -- stunning in red velvet with dark trim. The designer builds her clothes for real people, not just for those who are tall and slender. -- Rachel Holmen

La Fred, a terrific designer of women's clothing

La Fred (a woman named Fred Bloebaum) lives here in Oakland, and I was lucky enough some years ago to run into her stunning "Athena blouse" pattern at Stone Mountain and Daughter fabric. The Athena blouse has a square armhole, which gives an interesting detail to the blouse. Other patterns I've liked are the Thalia pants and the Cassandra skirt. Her website is

-- Rachel Holmen