Violet Peña

Web developer. Antisocialite. Ask me about my ice cream recipe.

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Cross Country

This week, I move from Brooklyn, New York to Portland, Oregon. At first, I processed the move as “across the country” in a vague sense. Later, I realized that I was moving almost exactly from coast to coast. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with a moving company and they were walking through a script that I learned that I will be moving about 2900 miles.

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I’ve actually made the coast-to-move before – in the summer of 2009, my family moved from Buffalo, NY to Berkeley, CA. My mom and brother flew there with our tranquilized cat in tow; my dad and I were tasked with getting the family car to our new home.

We took the I-80 almost the the entire way. We sped through familiar territory, at first echoing the Buffalo-Oberlin trip I’d memorized during my freshman year. Our first night was in Joliet, Illinois, next to a Bob Evans. The only vaguely watchable TV was Shark Week.


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Using SASS maps to manage color schemes


Today was a good day — I finally had the chance to slow down and clean up some code that’s been accumulating for a couple of weeks. I’ve been dying to use Sass maps since I found out about them a few weeks ago, and this was my chance. They were fun to work with, and helped solve some of my lingering Sass issues. Here’s what I did with them, and why and how I did it.

Named variables are the one feature of Sass that I use, without exception, on every single project. Coding and maintenance are miles easier when I can refer to the same color everywhere in my stylesheets as $light-green instead of juggling around its hex code.

At the same time, I am a bad variable namer. Sass variable names should reflect the role that color (or element with that color) plays in the project; they shouldn’t be the literal definition of that color. Thus, $secondary-theme-color or $heading-underline-color

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When OSX Won Me Over

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The campaign for my own laptop was a constant subplot of my high school years. As senior year dwindled to a close sans computer, I looked forward to the end summer not just for college, but for my inevitable laptop. I was excited to go to Best Buy and pick out something slim and shiny – something almost as attractive as the king of aesthetics, the MacBook.

For while I sought something visually like a MacBook, an Apple computer was the last thing I actually wanted. I had grown up on Windows, at home and in school, and while I did secretly covet Macs, I wore my loyalty to PCs with pride. Macs were sleek and artistic, but I was a nerd swapping computer jokes and Monty Python references with other such nerds. Someday, I would be a 1337 h4xx0r. I couldn’t use a Mac. Those weren’t for people who did Serious Computer Things. Linux on the family computer was out of the question, so I

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The !important Things

!important was introduced “to create a balance of power between author and user style sheets”– to ensure that the user has the final say in their online experience. Users with accessibility concerns, for example, can write their own stylesheets to bump up base font size or increase contrast. !important is useful here because it guarantees that those styles will take effect. When used in author stylesheets, however, !important is not just unhelpful, but detrimental. This “Jedi mind trick” might get you the styling you want, but it also:

  • makes code harder to maintain, since it can now only be overridden by other !importants;
  • doesn’t require understanding the rest of the CSS, or how different parts of the stylesheet interact; and
  • can be used to sweep messy HTML/CSS under the rug.


Essentially, it promotes bad practices and code obfuscation. If you have to deal with legacy / ineditable

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On Knowing Something

“The only thing I know is that I know nothing”–a profoundly humbling statement, courtesy of Socrates. As a corollary, he declares himself wiser than other men, but only because he has come to terms with his utter ignorance. In many ways, Socrates has hit the nail on the head. Only through humility can we hope to learn, to grow, to be open to new information and experiences.

What, though, of one who has invested a lot in learning something? After devoting innumerable hours to earnestly studying, practicing, refining, and the like, it must be said that this person knows something about the subject, even if this something is a hundredth of a thousandth of a millionth of all that could be known on the topic. What happens when you no longer know nothing?

When you know nothing, you can allow yourself to be led by the hand, to let experiences wash over you. You don’t have any bad habits to

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Making Hay

What a rush, the week before a deadline. I enjoy being on a mission, racing against the clock, battling out the hours. There’s adrenaline; there’s the thrill of seeing my project now five, now four steps away from finished.

And then there are the lulls.

These are harder to deal with than the deadlines. I constantly suspect that everything is about to implode. Things are going alright; better wait for the other shoe to drop. I’ve been, bit by bit, getting comfortable with the calm times, and learning how to make the most of them.

The low-pressure times are when I tighten up my code and make sure all my packages are up-to-date. I check that my VMs are exactly how I need them, and that all of the devices and profiles in my Apple Developer account are clearly named and organized. I knock low-priority items off of my to-do list. I draft and revise timelines, guidelines, pipe dreams.


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Becoming a Creator

It is vastly easier to consume than to create. While creation often stumbles, meanders, and backtracks, consumption rolls smoothly along. While creation’s payoff is uncertain and lies far in the future, consumption provides immediate, definite rewards. Consumption, unlike creation, is rarely tiring. And we are never, or almost never, penalized for consuming rather than creating. With all of these factors at work, it is easy—effortless—to go for a time, or for your whole life, purely as a consumer, creating nothing.

I was first able to articulate this towards the end of my freshman year of college. At the time, it was just an observation. Before college, I had always been into art and music, spending innumerable hours writing, drawing, silkscreening, Photoshopping, remixing, and playing violin. Creation had been my counterweight to the less stimulating aspects of my life (looking at you

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