We've figured out what's wrong with my laptop!
Our IT guy came back (for unrelated work on my boss's computer), and came in to take a look at the patient, in case there was anything else that could be done before I had to send it away.
We ran several utilities, including all the ones that seemed to help a bit last time, and added on a hardware analysis. The normal utilities kept crashing about 3/4 of the way through their runs, which was a little disconcerting, although they still seemed to be fixing small errors. IT Guy was figuring it was a hardware problem, so on with that analysis we went.
Eureka! A bad RAM chip.
This (according to IT.G.) is one of the best possible scenarios. Order new RAM chip, pop old RAM out, pop new RAM in, and we're in business. There's a chance that some of the files I may have accessed after the chip went wonky could be corrupted, but he assures me that this likelihood is extraordinarily small.
Total cost to me: <$100, all for the RAM and delivery. And I get an upgrade in RAM, because it wasn't worth it to get the same size chip that's in there now. It'll double my RAM, and since my processor is so fast, I should be able to notice a difference. Woo-hoo!
Now all that remains to be seen is whether the chip arrives in time for it to be fixed before my vacation.
In knitting news, I haven't decided on which sweater to make, but I think the yarn I've chosen will work for both (with a possible bit of needle switching). The funny thing is, with the strength of the Canadian dollar right now, there's no point in waiting to go to Canada and buy with my earned American money, since the exchange is so low. It's significantly cheaper for me to just order it online from a US supplier (cheaper, as in 60$ instead of nearly 100$).
This is so cheap, in fact, that I will have plenty of money left in my alloted yarny vacation budget to buy lots of fun stuff, like STR and Dream in Color, or whatever luxe things they have in stock.