Showing posts from 2007

Stuff for Christmas

Just in time for Christmas! The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard is a marvelous little animated piece that puts consumerism in perspective. The 20-minute movie can be viewed online at Everyone should see this vid... Check it out, and tell your friends!

I mean imeem

With all the news lately of the RIAA's McCarthyistic dragnet on file-sharing music fans, it seems some of the record companies have had a change of heart. The big four record labels are allowing to stream their full catalogs of music online, supported by online advertising[1].

Since the recent conviction of Jammie Thomas, a 30 year old single mom, who was sued by the RIAA for $222,000 for 24 songs ($9250 per song!)[2] there's been a strong backlash against the RIAA. Example: websites like and One of the best sites, let's you search for music to find whether its RIAA-free or not.

The ongoing RIAA vindictiveness goes hand-in-hand with copyright concerns, but there's more than meets the eye when it comes to copyright protection. Newer ultra-restrictive terms not only infringe on the rights of users[3] but seem to hurt sales, as well. Retail giant Walmart recently demanded major record labels release their product…

Battling for Opinion on Climate Change

The US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has issued a report describing a systematic effort by the White House to manipulate climate change science[1]. The report is available in PDF format from the House of Representatives here[2]. From the document:

This report presents the findings of the Committee’s investigation. The evidence before the Committee leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming.
I am sure that most North Americans are very unaware of the lengths to which industry will go to influence the thinking of consumers. Last month I wrote a post titled "Meatitarianism" in which I talked about John Robbins' book Diet for a New America, which documents the ongoing battle between medical scientists and the meat and dairy industry. It's no wonder that there's confusion about what…

Frontline Online

PBS Frontline has made available online their program "Spying on the Home Front" [link]. As a computer systems engineer working in the telecommunications area, I can attest to some of the content in this piece, as some of my work has been in related areas. This is one reason why many young people, and many "technically savvy" folks have become more and more concerned with personal privacy and freedom. From what I've seen, the pervasiveness of digital surveillance goes further than this report would indicate, and that there are significant drivers from both state and private sectors for "pimping out privacy", to coin a phrase.

Take for example the RIAA and MPAA. Recently, a toolkit designed to help universities spy on their students for copyright infringement made news[1]. Eventually, it was forced offline[2]. But these could be the more innocuous examples.

The Frontline piece discusses the NSA, and the "illegal" wiretapping act, and the rep…


If, as a thinking individual, if it is possible that you could tire from watching the television, and the inkling of learning something about the real world should come along, here is part of a documentary about the Hmong people in Laos who are the victims of an attempted genocide.

The first video isn't too graphic, but the subsequent videos require a login because of scenes of mutilation. The media doesn't seem to be reporting on this, but it is important to raise awareness.

You can also read about the CIA's secret war in Laos, which precipitated this atrocity, on Wikipedia.

Vantage Point

Approaching Lake Lefroy, Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

A Change'll Do You Good

They say change is as good as a vacation, or at least a change will (sometimes) do you good. I found this to be true when I quit my job last summer, bought a sailboat, and signed up with a new high-tech startup. It's been a gas. It's not just a change of surroundings or a change of workplace or hobby or house that can do you good, though. How about a change of habit? Or how about a change of mind? A change a heart? I think the pure and simple luxury we have as human beings of being able to change our minds is one of the most precious gifts we have. A change of job, or a change of residence... what is that compared to a whole new outlook, a new way of seeing things, new understanding? A change of mind can open new possibilities. It can free us from old ideas that have held is in bondage by our desperate desire to prove that we were right, and give sweet relief in being able to say, "I was wrong" or, "I forgive you."

But we're somehow conditioned…

Routine Variation

Somewhere, a long time ago, I remember reading that an established regular routine is common among people who live very long lives. I also remember an article that talked about altering your regular routine, and how it can inspire new ideas, creativity and a youthful mind.

On Tuesday nights from Fall, through Winter, and through Spring, I would go to the Bells Corners Academy of Music to take piano lessons and play with the Tuesday night jazz ensemble. Parking my car in the lot shared with the Nepean Creative Arts Centre, I'd walk out back behind the building and cross a small wooded lawn to the back lot of a Tim Horton's drive-through. There were hardly ever any walk in customers, and although I never got to know the staff by name, they got used to seeing me pop in on Tuesdays, around 6pm. With my double-double in hand I'd scoot back to BCAM, crossing the pavement, over the lawn on a hint of a footpath, and if I was lucky and the door was slightly ajar, into the back o…


I used to jokingly tell people I'm a meatitarian. My attitude has generally been, I like meat. I don't care where it comes from. I don't care how it is raised. Kill it, cook it, eat it.

This book, Diet For A New America, is changing that, however. John Robbins (the heir to the Baskin-Robbins empire who walked away from it all to promote healthy food choices) uncovers study after study in this book that amounts to a mass of scientific research on the effects of diet on our health and on our planet. Robbins also does a good job of making clear how the scientific community has long been battled by the Meat and Dairy Industries, who patently ignore, contradict and criticize the prevalent medical evidence to promote their own sales through misleading advertising, 'educational' campaigns and outright deception.

This book is remarkably impacting. Accoring to Google Books, since its publication in 1987 American consumption of beef has fallen by 19%. Arthritis, MS, dia…

Digging a Hole (to China)

When I was a kid, somebody told me that if I dug a hole in the ground deep enough, eventually I would dig all the way to China on the other side of the Earth! I thought about it, but it seemed like it would be an awful lot of work. So instead, I tried to dig a hole big enough for my sister to fall into.

These days it seems like China is doing some digging... digging themselves into an embarrassing hole.

Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially met the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet. Good for him, and I hope they had a nice chat. The Dalai Lama is a Nobel Peace laureate, was recently awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, is an honorary Citizen of Canada, and has met with countless world religious leaders and heads of state. He has tirelessly campaigned for peace and maintained a pacifist position in the face of brutal political, cultural and religions repression of Tibet by the Chinese government.

China has protested rather loudly. But the world h…


Hi. After the last post I got a couple of emails. One was asking about plastic bottles, particularly the Nalgene plastic bottles, and if they're safe for drinking water. So I decided to look into that a bit.

Apparently the colorful, hard plastic Lexan bottles by Nalgene (and other manufacturers) are polycarbonate based and they do leach harmful chemicals into the water, especially if exposed to heat and/or sunlight. These bottles can be identified by a recycling symbol with the number 7.

The disposable plastic water bottles are made from polyethylene teraphthalate (PET) and identified by the recycling symbol 1. They're often marked "do not refill" because they are known to release toxins into the water in increasing levels as they get older. The molecular formula for this compound is (-CO-C6H5-CO-O-CH2-CH2-O-)n, where C6H5 is a benzene ring. Benzene is known to be a carcinogenic substance.

Here are a couple of links for more information:…

One for the Planet

Today, it turns out, is Blog Action Day, where bloggers around the world are encouraged to blog on the environment. And it turns out that as a climber, I have an interest in the environment because of what I've seen in the mountains.

It's easy not to care about the environment. For most of us, environmental issues don't affect our day to day lives. In some places, if you go on about "the environment", people look at you like some kind of kook. Growing up in the 70's, there were lots of environmentalists around making noise, but in general they were treated like a bunch of weirdos. In my upbringing, there was a certain stigma attached to environmental issues. You still encounter this today even in young people. A lot of people just don't want to be worried about the environment.

I just posted a bunch of photos from my last trip to the Canadian Rockies. I started doing technical mountaineering in the Rockies in the mid-90's, starting with Mt. Temp…

Take Stock

Well I've uploaded just about everything worth uploading from my summer vacation pictures.

Other than posting pictures, I've been rebuilding my porch. As for sailing, the season is coming to a close and I'm sure I'll be writing about haul-out and winter boat projects soon.

But not before the Turkey Trot! A fun Thanksgiving Day race where the goal is to have everyone cross the finish line at the same time, a boisterous bevy of boaters, booze and ... birds. The winners - however they're chosen - each get a frozen turkey. Gobble gobble!

Going Home

Climbers' silhouettes against Mt. Odaray , Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Fresh Snow

Mt. Hungabee, Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.


Climbers on Mt. Odaray, Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Persistent Pine

Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Mount Huber

Lake O'Hara and the Huber-Victoria Massif, Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Homeward Bound


Boats at Dock

Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.


Lake Oesa, Yoho National Park, B.C., Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

South Ridge

Mt. Victora, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Verdant Green

Forest Moss, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Alpine Air

Lake O'Hara and the peaks of Opabin in morning mist, Yoho National Park, BC, Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.


Abbot Pass, Alberta-BC border, Yoho National Park, Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Hidden Gem

Lake MacArthur and Mount Hungabee, Yoho National Park, Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Mountain Pass

The Death Trap, Abbot Pass on the Continental Divide, BC and Alberta, Canada.

August 2007. Photo by Darren DeRidder.

Comment Switches

What are comment switches and how to use them? To comment and uncomment certain blocks of code repeatedly, I use what I call a "comment switch", allowing me to switch a block of code on or off with a single character. It looks like this://* printf("I am active!\n"); // *//* printf("I am commented out!\n"); // */
Switch between two code blocks with a single character:
//* printf ("I am active!\n"); /*/ printf ("I am commented out!\n"); // *//* printf("Now I am commented out!\n"); /*/ printf("And I am active!\n"); // */Addendum:
I recently found a forum posting where a similar comment switch was proposed:
/* comment /* *///* uncomment /* */

Net Worth

You can find out how much your blog is worth.

My blog is worth $0.00.
How much is your blog worth?

My blog is worth $0.00. Wow. That's how much I paid for it.

Speaking of net worth... BYC is talking about installing finger docks. That sounded great, until I found out how they planned to pay for them. They plan to charge every member $5000. Welcome to the club. One would think the avenues of fund raisers, sponsorships, donations and volunteerism ought to be explored. I feel that maintenance and improvements to club property should be done within a budget laid out in BYC's operating plan, but I haven't yet put my two cents in to the Commodore or manager.

Oh, wait... according to Technorati, I haven't got two cents.

Les Saisons

Elizabeth Rutledge is an artist whose work I greatly admire. Her paintings are currently on display at Les Saisons in Old Chelsea, Quebec. There is very little information online about the artist, but a brief description is available at Tour Des Ateliers.

Lake O'Hara.

It is time for an update. I've been away in the Canadian Rockies, spending a week at Lake O'Hara to do mountaineering. In the end, we didn't get to the top of anything other than Mt. Schaffer (in the picture). The weather wasn't great, and the night we spent at the Abbot Pass hut between Mts. Victoria and Lefroy left about two feet of fresh powder snow all over everything; climbing Victoria was out of the question. Ironically it was a lack of snow on Mt. Huber that put us off. Having been on Huber a few times, I decided not to go the last few pitches to the summit. My partners Markus and Marcel attempted it, but found the last section impassable. At least I felt my judgement was confirmed.

Since the climbing trip, Aura has gone out a few times. Unfortunately, one of those times we tore the Genoa. It's now in need of a major repair. I've purchased sail thread, needles, and a leather sail-makers palm (so you don't stab yourself). I'm working up …

PHRF Racing

No better way to learn a new boat that to race her, I guess. We've been racing Aura for a couple of weeks now. The first trip out was to take a look at the course and try not to hit anybody. A bonus was that we met up with Dwight, skipper of Gabrielle, and his crew out on Lac Duschenes, and gave him a proper rock-star salute. This is a picture of Markus sailing back to harbor after the race.

PHRF is a handicapping system that allows boats of different makes and models to race together, and the faster boats have a "handicap" that causes them to "owe time" to the slower boats... they get a few seconds shaved off their score and when the results are tabulated, its not necessarily the first boat across the line who wins, but the boat with the fastest time after adjusting for the PHRF rating.

Last Tuesday we sailed out and no wind was blowing. We found about six Tanzer 22's all roped up together, however, and decided to pull alongside and raft up. Everyone…


Here are a few pictures of Aura. The harbor at BYC has 'Mediterranean' style moorings rather than finger docks. I admit the finger docks at Nepean Sailing Club are really nice. On the other hand, you can put many more boats in the harbor without all the docks. It makes boarding a bit challenging, so I think I'll construct a gangplank of sorts.

This first picture is Aura laying at Britannia Yacht Club. There are a lot of Tanzer 22's at the club, but I think she's one of the nicer looking ones. For a boat that was built in 1979 it's in surprisingly good condition.

The first major project undertaken on Aura was sorting out the electrical system. Although the depth meter was working, almost nothing else was: AM/FM radio, VHF radio, anchor light, running lights or cabin lights. I started by recharging the two 12volt gel batteries and then got first mate Markus in with his soldering iron. Markus set to work on the fuse panel and after some creative soldering…


We went out on Aura on Saturday, and the wind was really blowing. We sailed up to Aylmer Island and anchored for a picnic, and then headed downriver wing-on-wing, blowing down towards BYC with our wake boiling. A dinghy with a 3-man crew went flying past, heeled over on a port tack, and the skipper yelled over to us, "This is AMAZING!!!". Seconds later, we heard a huge BOOM!!! and looked back just in time to see his mast collapse into the water.

Amazing, indeed.

Getting Wet

Aura went in the water on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday evening we stepped the mast and motored over to BYC. She now lays in the inner harbor alongside a bunch of other T22's. BYC has a phenomenal number of these boats.

One burly older guy in the yard strolled past scowling. Club security. A younger guy, happy and friendly, came by to chat about the high water and boat stuff. I suspect there might be a mix of the old guard and yuppies at BYC.

Now, here is a webcam of BYC. Hope it works:


Today I became a member of the Brittania Yacht Club. It is the oldest yacht club in Canada. This is where Aura will be moored for the summer.

The boat is "on the hard" at Nepean Sailing Club. I'll launch her there and sail her down to Brittania. The cradle she sits on will have to be dismantled and hauled over to the BYC yard by truck.

I like the Brittania club. It has a reputation for being a bit elitist, but I found them to be very friendly and helpful, interested in new members. Thanks to Mark Walton at BYC. If all goes well, I'll keep Aura at the BYC. It's close enough to reach by a pleasant bicycle ride along the canal and river-front pathways.

Gödel, Escher, Bach

In the book Gödel, Escher, Bach: a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carrol, author Douglas Hofstadter refers to great works of logic, art and music as three aspects of a central essence, different expressions flowing from a common source.

It strikes me as interesting that lot of the great hackers are also fairly accomplished musicians, to one degree or another. Quite a few of the engineers I know and respect happen to be quite musically talented. It may not be mere coincidence, either.

Of course there are plenty of good programmers out there who never took up a musical instrument. However, I've begun to see the musician/hackers and the pure technicians differently.

The technician is the person who is fascinated with technology. They actually like complicated things, and figuring out what makes them work. They get a sense of accomplishment from having mastered a particularly difficult piece of software, much like solving a puzzle. They've probab…

Starting Up

I recently made a decision to leave the company where I have been employed for the last 6 years, Bridgewater Systems Corporation, and become a contractor (gasp!) working with a very small group of high-tech entrepreneurs to form a new start-up. Starting a new company can be rather risky, and the golden age of startups in the Ottawa Valley may have passed, but its the sort of opportunity you don't get every day. There are a lot of reasons why I decided to do this, and as I was reading Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham, I began to feel even more like this is the right decision.

Graham gives an example of a galley ship, powered by 1000 rowers. He says there are a couple of factors limiting the speed of the ship. One is that the individual rower isn't going to see any noticeable improvement from working harder. The other is that, on a boat of 1000 rowers, the average rower is likely to be... well, an average rower. If you took 10 rowers and put them in a dinghy, their perf…

Welcome Aboard

Last Thursday I went down to the Nepean Sailing Club to look at a boat. A fellow drove up and hollered through the passenger window "Do you want to buy a boat?" -- the owner of the Tanzer 22 I was about to see. The boat was high and dry in the yard and we spent about an hour poking around. Her name is "Aura" and she was built in 1979.

The bottom paint is blistered and peeling and theres a crumbly seam between the keel and the hull that needs to be faired up. The gel-coat is gouged along the gunwales and crazed around some of the fittings, but the teak has been all nicely refinished topside. There was a little water in the bilge and hints of rust from the keel bolts, but it looked treatable. The electrical system is a bit of a dogs breakfast, but there are only running lights and a radio to re-wire. There are four sails that look in good shape, including an older spinnaker, and a 9hp Mercury 4-stroke outboard motor.

All in all a nice boat, and Ottawa has o…