Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Blog

Hi folks. I’ve started a new blog over at https://vcolavin.com/blog. This current WordPress blog will be around indefinitely as an archive.

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Portfolio

Hi there. I haven’t written a portfolio on my main website, so here’s a stand-in.

The Nature of the Beast

See it live at https://vcolavin.com/nature-of-the-beast
See the code at https://github.com/vcolavin/nature-of-the-beast
Technologies: TypeScript, React, Redux, Scss, Webpack
2018 – 2019

I work full-time, so I don’t do a lot of open-source work in my spare time. Sometimes, though, the spirit moves me and I put a few hours into my main active project. It’s still evolving, but right now it’s an interactive fiction inspired by 80s text-based adventure and the terminal console. In a word, it is nerdy. In more words, it’s nerdy and strange and literary and deeply personal.

Salmon Explorer

See it live at http://salmonexplorer.ca/
This project is close-source.
Technology: TypeScript, React, Redux, Mapbox, Scss
2018

An app to look at huge amounts of data about fish in the Pacific Northwest! I worked on features all across this app, but I was entirely responsible for the on-demand PDF generation. Warning, some PDFs are very data heavy and may take a long while to load.

Lumina Stronger Nation

See it live at http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2019/
This project is close-source.
Technology: React, Redux, TypeScript, Nivo.
2018 – 2019

A way of finding information about higher education attainment rates in the United States.

I also built the entire Predictive Tool, which at this moment is hidden behind that “coming soon” button. It’s really cool, I promise.

Animal Wellness Action Website and Congressional Accountability Tool (CAT)

See it live at https://animalwellnessaction.org/
This project is close-source.
Technology: React, Redux, TypeScript, WordPress, Jupyter Notebooks (for data ingestion).

The coolest part of this suite of sites for AWA is the CAT: https://cat.animalwellnessaction.org/. However, I built the blog using good old-fashioned WordPress. I learned it from scratch in a couple of weeks, and had a lot of fun building the custom theme.

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Using ARIA roles and background-image

Here’s something I just learned about, so I’ll make a note here so I can remember it for later.

Here’s the main source: https://fae.disability.illinois.edu/rulesets/IMAGE_1/

Often, when adding an image to a web site, I need to have particular control over the images behavior. These needs lead me to use a div with a CSS background-image property, rather than an img.

This is great because it gives access to many powerful formatting rules, like background-cover and background-clip. Unfortunately, it also lowers accessibility. Screenreaders assume that background images are ignorable and decorative.

Here’s how you can fix that. Give the div the ARIA-role of img, and alt text, like this:

<div role="img" alt="description of the background image" />

And that’s it!

I’m using JSX and TypeScript, and TypeScript doesn’t expect a div to have an alt attribute, but as far as I can tell it’s perfectly valid and necessary HTML. You’ve just got to extend the types.

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I’m gonna go into that Dragon Ball Z trainingroom where gravity is like 100 times stronger and time slows down and I will become extremely powerful

I will become extremely powerful and noone will be able to stop me.

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I left Twitter

Around, like, 2013, I stopped eating meat. First I just cut out pork, then meat altogether, and eventually I was consistent about it. The meat industry is unfathomably horrible, and its horribleness extends in many dimensions. I didn’t want any part in it, and I still don’t. I still eat dairy, so I’m not perfect, but I’ve picked my battle and drawn my line. I stand by it. It is worth it to me to not cross that line.

In the same vein, I used to like Twitter. There’s a lot of cool stuff on there, like good jokes. There’s also a lot of amazing political activists who have done so much work to educate people about vital and critical issues. For example, I credit people I followed on Twitter with teaching me about trans rights, or the concepts of prison and police abolition. Women and nonbinary techies on Twitter became my unwitting mentors and exemplars. They did a lot to broaden my world. Also I read many many jokes about dogs. It was fun and useful.

Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of Nazis. There are an unjustifiable amount of Nazis.

Many other people have done very good jobs of explaining how Twitter is a bad website, but I really like Mike Monteiro’s blog post here. Twitter is sad, and it makes me sad. In that way it is a microcosm of entire tech industry. It could be, and very nearly is, so much more than the cesspool that it has consciously allowed itself to become.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, though, was that Twitter recently posted profit for the first time. So that means, in the shallowest and most cynical of use of the term, Jack Dorsey’s artificial controversy engine is “working”. I am aghast. I am revolted. And I am leaving.

I didn’t have a lot of followers. Just 159 at the time of this writing, and very few ever engaged with me, so I know I was never making @jack as much money the POTUS. Here’s my most successful tweet ever. @jack won’t notice, I think, another small account shutting off its lights in response to the sustained and unaddressed harassment encouraged by his platform.

So, folks, consider not being on Twitter anymore.

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