Showing posts from 2009

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta, Canada

© 2009 Darren DeRidder

Canons of Layout

I've always been interested in the aesthetic of well balanced spaces and trying to understand why some geometries are so much more pleasing than others.  Because I get a lot of visitors who're interested in web development and testing, I thought an article on the aesthetics of layout and some general rules of thumb might be worthwhile.

With the growth of the Internet, a vast amount of content has been published online, and almost none of it adheres to any formal principles of margin and type areas, "laws of form" or page design "canons".  In medieval times when books were a rarity and publishing houses were few, considerable time and effort was put into achieving the perfect layout, with most printed works relating to the Golden Ratio.  Collectors of rare books appreciate the "truly beautiful" proportions of the pages.  It was very rare for publishers to deviate from the two or three most common "canons of page design".

I first became a…

Classic Modern

The Confederation Building reflected in the Bank of Canada Building.

©2009 Darren DeRidder

The Mountaineering Journals

I've begun moving some of my old mountaineering reports to a new blog.  I like the blog format and this should make it easier to add new reports if and when I do more mountaineering.  My collection of old climbing write-ups on the original Mountaineering Journals web site is pretty big, and warrants a dedicated site, I think.

The Mountaineering Journals began as a creased collection of photo-copied trip reports that I and a few friends circulated amongst ourselves while living in Japan.  There were three main contributors, all decent writers, and some of the reports were very entertaining, especially for anyone familiar with life as a foreigner in Japan.

Building Really Elegant Web Portals, Part 2

The first part of this article talked about some principles for building really elegant web portals.  It proposes using a design pattern rather than a one-size fits all framework.  It requires no specialized software and once implemented, can be rebranded, reorganized, and re-featurized by anyone with basic HTML design skills.  Part 2 looks at more technical details of this design approach.

An Example

The following example shows a simple contacts list with email addresses.  The layout of the page is already set up, so we just insert a simple tag, <?Widgets::membershipList?>, to create the list.  It looks like an HTML tag, but it automatically expands into the full contacts list.

Obviously this is a simple example, but you can see how easy it would be to move this widget around, change the CSS styling, relocate to another page or change the entire look and feel of the site around it.  Even if the whole layout of the portal changes, this widget will still provide the same functional…

Piz Balzet

Yours truly leading pitch one of the Piz Balzet, Albigna, Switzerland.

Photo ©2008 by Iain Williams

New Belcanto

Mike del Ferro, "New Belcanto - Opera Meets Jazz"

Great discoveries should be shared.   I came across Mike del Ferro's rendition of Nessun Dorma on more than a year ago.  Several months ago I went back and found that it was gone.   I finally tracked down the album.  It's available on iTunes.   Spoiler: this album will be on my Top 5 Albums of 2009.

I've also been enjoying the new CD/DVD from my own piano teacher Brian Browne, entitled "Brian Browne Trio at the NAC".  A protege of Oscar Peterson, Brian is one of the greatest jazz pianists that Canada has ever produced.  The album is available at

Farewell to Autumn

Wolf Trail, Gatineau Park, Quebec

©2009 Darren DeRidder

Wakefield Bridge

Covered Bridge, Wakefield, Quebec

© 2009 Darren DeRidder

The Eardsley Escarpment

Gatineau Park, Quebec, Canada

© 2009 Darren DeRidder


City Hall, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

©2009 Darren DeRidder

I posted this image a while ago, but had to remove it after the comment section fell victim to a spam message.  The only way to remove the spam was delete the post.  Hopefully this has been fixed by now.

Remembering E.S.T.


Just over a year since the jazz world lost Esbjorn Svensson.  E.S.T. defined a whole new trajectory in jazz. "It's not what jazz is, but it's what jazz could be".

City and Color

Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Canada

©2009 Darren DeRidder

The End of a Season

The South Stands, Lansdowne Park, Ottawa

©2009 Darren DeRidder

The unused South Stands will be demolished as Lansdowne Park is slated for major redevelopment.  City officials are debating a controversial plan put forward by developers to create a massive retail and housing complex on the historic site.

Canal In Color II

The Rideau Canal - Ottawa, Ontario

©2009 Darren DeRidder

The Way Home

Bank Street Bridge, Ottawa, Ontario

© 2009 Darren DeRidder

Building Really Elegant Web Portals, Part 1

This is part one of a two-part article.  Part two is here.

This article discusses principles for building really elegant web portals. More precisely, it’s about how to build portals in a really elegant way. Even though I use a particular development stack for the example implementation, the principles can apply generally to other platforms as well.

Web-based applications and interfaces have become very popular.  Even certain kinds of equipment, like routers, generally implement a web-based GUI.  In the telecom community, sites that allow subscribers to access and manage their services are often referred to as "portals".  There are a lot of approaches to designing a portal site, and a lot of potential pitfalls that could be avoided with the right approach.

A Design Pattern for Portals

Usually, when a portal has to be built, people go looking around for a framework to use, or they use the one they already know.  There are some pretty good frameworks out there, but in my experienc…

Strong vs Weak Typing

Apple says it best:

"If you are used to using strongly typed languages, you might think that the use of weakly typed variables would cause problems, but they actually provide tremendous flexibility and allow for much greater dynamism..."

I've always felt the same way. Its a different mindset but I wish it was more prevalent.

Shoes and the US Health Care System

If you live in the US, and have been hearing rumblings about single-payer health care, "socialized" health care, or how terrible it would be to have a Canadian-style health care system:

don't believe a word of it.

I've lived in a few countries, including the US and Canada. Whatever you hear, Canada is a great country to live in. And one of the greatest things about Canada is universal, socialized health care.

I know there are stories of long wait times, and there's a grain of truth to some of those. But in my experience I have never had to wait very long to see a doctor. I had a broken finger fixed in an hour. I got surgery to fix a hernia in about a week and a half. I know that for certain other things, people may wait longer. But I don't know anyone who hasn't gotten the care and treatment they needed. For free.

Furthermore, work is being done in Canada to reduce wait times in areas where they may be longer, using innovative research in queuing t…

Banana Leaf

Excerpt from Norton Lecture #1 by Charles Eames

There's sort of a parable I'd like to . . . In India . . . I guess it's a parable: In India, sort of the lowest, the poorest, the, those, those without and the lowest in caste, eat very often--particularly in southern India--they eat off of a banana leaf. And those a little bit up the scale, eat off of a sort of a un . . . a low-fired ceramic dish. And a little bit higher, why, they have a glaze on--a thing they call a "tali"--they use a banana leaf and then the ceramic as a tali upon which they put all the food. And there get to be some fairly elegant glazed talis, but it graduates to--if you're up the scale a little bit more--why, a brass tali, and a bell-bronze tali is absolutely marvelous, it has a sort of a ring to it. And then things get to be a little questionable. There are things like silver-plated talis and there are solid silver talis and I suppose some nut has had a gold tali that he's eaten off o…

Sailing to Baskins Beach

The plan for the weekend was to set sail on Saturday after lunch and try to make it all the way to Baskin's Beach. Thunderstorms conspired to force a change of plans, but by 5:30 in the evening the skies cleared and the trip was on again. Rushing home I grabbed an extra shirt and some rain gear, ran through the grocery store grabbing pre-packaged food and snacks in a more-or-less random fashion, and zipped back to the marina where my friends Liam and Kate were already loading their Aloha 28. Basil the Dog was as excited as ever at the arrival of another crew member, especially one that he knows will slip him small pieces of cheese and bread under the table.

A pizza had been ordered and arrived just as a passing raincloud unleashed a torrential downpour on the marina. I ran back to the boat with the box in hand, and opened it up to find our "Veggie Lovers" pizza was actually a "Meat Lovers" pizza. When I called back Pizza-Pizza they refused to give a full ref…

Simply Messing Around In Boats

Cruising on the open water at sunset.

© 2009 Darren DeRidder

Port Lights

The other big project I undertook this spring was to refurbish and reseal the portlights. This turned out to be a really big job. Had I known what a big job it would be I'd have tried to get it done over the winter instead of waiting till two weeks before launch.

Initially I wanted to remove all the aluminum frames, clean them, replace the plexiglass, and reseat them with new sealant. The first frame proved incredibly hard to remove. Even using a putty knife and hammer to cut around the flange, it didn't want to come out, so I gave up on that idea and just removed the plexiglass.

When the boat came out for knotmeter replacement, I found that four of the frames were installed with white butyl and came out very easily. Of course, they'd been leaking like crazy; white butyl isn't a good solution for portlights. They were also extremely gunked up. Two of the frames were very hard to remove and I ended up resorting to brute force with a putty knife and hammer to cut th…

Through with Thru-Hulls

The epoxy cast turned out great. A two-and-a-quarter inch hole turned into a two-inch hole. Just a few rough edges to sand down.
The new through hull looks good. Lots of LifeSeal (BoatSeal) polyurethane/silicon hybrid caulking around the through hull and up over the threads.
With the transducer in place it's ready for a coat of antifouling. Is it water tight? We'll soon find out.

The transducer is an interesting device; the small paddle wheel on the outside of the transducer spins and interacts with a magnetic sensor on the inside. The sensor is good enough to pick up the frequency of the wheel's rotation through the plastic plug and send it to a instrument panel for conversion into a digital readout. As a bonus there's a temperature reading to test the water on those days when you really feel like going for a swim.

knotmeter retrofit

This all started by trying to fix the old knotmeter. After some enthusiastic inspection and troubleshooting by my pal, who decided it was broken, the old thru-hull transducer fitting sprung a leak as soon as the boat splashed. I went to the chandlery and checked out my options. There weren't very many.

One was to glass over the whole thing. There were no plugs or other devices for a temporary fix. The best option was to put a brand new transducer in the hole, so I ordered a new Raymarine ST40 Speed by priority post.

Things were looking grand as I drove to the yard with my new knotmeter, but when I tested the thru-hull fitting in the cutout, it rattled around with about 1/8" of space around the whole device. The cutout was too large by about a quarter-inch.

I decided to do an in-situ epoxy cast. My mold consisted of a flat base, pressed up against the outside of the hull, and a 2-inch outer diameter central vacuum PVC tube sitting in the old hole from inside the boat and r…

The Close of the Day

© 2009 Darren De Ridder

Launch Weekend

Preparation of the keel joint nearing completion mid-week.

Interprotect 2000 and Sikaflex 291 polyurethane caulking have been applied.

A final layer of Interprotect. I had thought of leaving the polyurethane expsed, since the Interprotect is more brittle, but I painted over the joint after all, to provide a base for the antifouling.

VC-17m antifouling always looks great after it has been freshly applied.

Ready for launch day; fellow Tanzer 22 owners take a break from preparations.

Aura splashes! Cranes and crews had all boats in the water by mid-day.

The first thing a skipper looks for when his yacht splashes in the spring is any water coming into the bilge or around the through-hulls and keel bolts. One of my crew had been working on the knotmeter. Within minutes of launch, water was slowly collecting in the bilge and we were able to trace it to the knotmeter thru-hull fitting. I'm happy that it was discovered immediately rather than springing unexpectedly while nobody was around t…