March 1, 2019

About Me

I like to spend time outside and to create beautiful things.

Russell PortraitGrowing up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada I spent time mountain biking, hiking and downhill skiing in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. My interest in outdoor pursuits has continually increased and now includes backcountry skiing, rock and ice climbing, and mountaineering. As my outdoor experience grew, I began to venture further into the backcountry and started bringing a camera to share my experiences in hard-to-reach places. This has become my preferred style of photography: finding awe-inspiring landscapes, frequently far and high in the mountains.

Similar to photography, graphic design—especially web design—requires a keen technical understanding. Coding has always come naturally to me, but it is the combination of the logic of coding and the creative side of design that makes the web a rewarding medium to design for. I cut my teeth back in the days of Internet Explorer 6 and have kept up with the evolution of the web over the years.

Photography and design are complementary skills. Design principles provide an expanded tool kit to use in photography. Similarly, being able to take photos allows me to readily incorporate them into my design work.

Professional Résumé

I completed an undergraduate degree in civil engineering, graduating from the University of Alberta in 2011, and worked as a structural engineer for just over three years.

In early 2019, I earned an MSc. in biomedical engineering from the University of Calgary. My thesis (8 MB PDF; 31k words), “Intercellular Gap Junction Communication in the Bovine Annulus Fibrosus,” investigated cell-cell signalling in the intervertebral disc.

Wanting to further my coding skills, I took the Lighthouse Labs web development boot camp course from July to October 2019.

View my current résumé, or check out my LinkedIn profile.

Apps I developed

About this Site

This website, designed to work on modern mobile and desktop browsers, is a random patchwork of scripts cobbled together that somehow hasn’t exploded yet. It is as close to being built from scratch as is reasonably practicable these days, short of reinventing jQuery. I eschewed off-the-shelf solutions such as Wix and Squarespace that advertise “no coding required” as I had actually learned how to code in high school—and why do things the easy way when you can do them the very-time-consuming hard way? (My advice for climbing mountains is much the same: why pay for guiding services when you can take a decade to learn alpinism? The joy is in the journey, as they say.)

For the longest time, this site’s ballooning source code wasn’t even under version control, but now it resides in a GIT repository. I develop locally on my Mac—see this excellent tutorial on the Grav Development Blog for details on setting up a local testing server on macOS—then publish to a private Bitbucket repository with an automatic webhook to update the production server (see this tutorial).

For my journal, I want the emphasis to be on text—à la Daring Fireball or Pixel Envy—not bright images or fancy animations that can hamper legibility.

Style is essential to me, both in the design of my website and in my writing. I am primarily self-taught in graphic design with no formal education beyond an evening course at ACAD several years ago.

For information on graphics design and typography, see Butterick’s Practical Typography or Ellen Lupton’s books Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students and Type on Screen: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Developers, and Students.

The inverted/dark theme of this website was inspired by the dark mode concept that is all the rage in UI design these days. Photos sure do look good this way.

For writing style, I refer to The Chicago Manual of Style and Diana Hacker’s A Canadian Writer’s Reference. I like hyphens, em-dashes, and conjunctive adverbs. My style of writing is very concise, which has been said to be more time-consuming than otherwise—though you’re likely seeing this as my preferred way of doing things by now.

One day I will get around to updating this site to use something more modern like Gatsby.


This site is hosted on the cheapest possible shared plan from Namecheap, which is more than adequate for the minimal traffic it receives.

Fonts are served by Adobe Typekit.

There are no cookies or tracking beyond analyzing the log files with AWStats.

Content is managed sans database by the fabulously lightweight Pico CMS, with text written in Markdown format. After years of battling WordPress’s ever-increasing bloat, it is entirely refreshing to develop from the ground up, implementing features one at a time, rather than paring things down.

Reading Time Estimates

Reading time estimates for these articles assumes a 265 words per minute speed. Admittedly, my notoriously long-winded essays may require a slower pace to digest properly. The actual word count is done via a custom Pico plugin, which I may get around to releasing someday.

The Photo Gallery

Most off-the-shelf self-hosted photo galleries are too complicated or ugly, so I created my own. Photos are served with a custom PHP script that simply lists images from their parent folders while generating and serving thumbnails. Inline page formatting is done with Justified Gallery, and the full-screen lightbox is done with fancyBox.

Other Scripts

For a full list of the tools I use, see “What I use”.


  1. Like this one!