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How I got an FBI record at age 11 from dabbling in cryptography (2015) (stanford.edu)
562 points by tjalfi on Apr 29, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments



Funny story, so in 2008 I was admitted as a refugee. I flew from Amman, Jordan and landed in Chicago. Everyone that had an IOM bag had to go to a designated area to get their fingerprints taken. So when it was my turn, the officer took my index fingerprint, waited a few seconds then gave me a look, a WTF look, but didn't say anything. A couple of minutes later, two homeland security officers showed up out of nowhere and escorted me to a holding area. I wanted to find out what was going on because I was the only one out of the entire group (100 people or so) that was getting this special treatment, but the officers ignored me. I waited, and waited, and waited, then when I asked again ~ four hours later I was told "Don't worry, you're going in either way". Long story short, The FBI had a record on me because I was a translator for the US Army in Baghdad, but the record didn't say whether I was one of the good guys or the bad guys, so they had to contact the FBI to see what's up. Fun times..


I don't know if you get this very much, but thank you. I'm glad you made it through our government's byzantine, arbitrary, and capricious immigration process, and I'm hope you are happy with your life here!


For anyone interested, here's a podcast episode on being a Middle Eastern translator for the US military then trying to get into the US

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/607/...


Travelling to the US around 2005 or so - a friend got whisked away into an interrogation room without any explaon entering the country. He'd been part of the NATO forces preparing for/participating the gulf I war - and they similarly spent some hours before letting him go with a "thank you for your service". Apparently they readily knew he'd been "in the wrong place at the right time", but took some time to figure out which "side" he'd been on..


Why is it in all these stories about people being detained by law enforcement or border security that any questions about whats happening are just being ignored. I almost get the feeling that they willfully want to make people uneasy. Anyone can see that if you make people feel helpless in this way it's the prefect recipe for panic.


It's because they, like you, get nothing out of revealing information that they aren't required to reveal, except they have training that says, "Don't say anything until you have to, even if it seems rude," whereas the average person stopped does not treat it quite so adversarially, and tends to waive their right to remain silent.

Presumably, the reason that so many Kafkaesque stories crop up is because these people are not required to tell you why you are being detained if asked.


Did you get a copy of your "record"? Do they give that too you?


No, but I never really asked. I doubt they would though.


Not saying that you should, but it's possible to get information from the FBI:

http://m.wikihow.com/Obtain-Your-FBI-File

It's also possible you could file an FOIA with the DoD, Army, DHS, etc.:

https://www.foia.gov/report-makerequest.html


Just saying, it's a catch 22 because making a request will most likely prompt the FBI to now create a record of you if you didn't have one before.


Try it! request one, wait a couple weeks, then request again. Would be interesting to see the results.


Can a translator for the Army be a bad guy?


My reading is that all the homeland security officers can see is a flag that such a file exists - they had no way of knowing (and should have no way of knowing!) what is actually in OP's file.


"Don't worry, you're going in either way"

Did you get the hidden meaning at that point ?


Please define IOM


I apologize, https://www.iom.int/


http://worldreliefdurham.org/iom-bags

> Before arriving in the U.S., every refugee case receives a white plastic bag from the International Organization for Migration (I.O.M.), in which they should keep their important identification and other official documents.


"We traced the glasses to your son from the prescription by examining the files of all optometrists in the San Diego area."

Wow, no wonder government agencies salivate at the idea of being able to monitor the whole Interwebs.

I know they now have orders of magnitude more data to process but still... that manual process must have been expensive and boring as hell.

I guess as an agent you would need to convince yourself that this was actually a very important task of defending your country or something. Otherwise I can imagine going crazy just doing this stuff for nothing...

Edit:

Another quote I found amusing:

"The friendlier one eventually described how much it had cost to investigate another recent case where a person was reported to have pulled down an American flag and stepped on it. Only after the investigation was well under way did they learn that the perpetrator of this nefarious act was only four years old."


Wait, they actually green lit a case about stepping on a flag? To what end? Does the FBI realize how many open missing persons cases there are? This whole quote is nauseous.


Just speculating, maybe they wanted to show how omnipotent they where?

If you see someone (an adult presumably) stepping on a flag, and then days or weeks later you see them being taken away, you may start thinking those FBI guys know about everything you do. Kinda like with Santa Claus and kids, so you better not do anything wrong.


Why would the FBI "take someone away" for stepping on a flag? Do you mean arrest them? On what charges?


Communism? Treason? They were japanese? This time period is not exactly a shining example of american justice. The policies seem more inspired by xenophobic and ideological fears than anything rational.


Do you have evidence that people in the last ten years have been arrested for communism, treason, or being Japanese in relation to stepping on a flag?


Well yeah, maybe arrest, maybe just "come with us we need to chat" intimidation. It was figure of speech.

Edit:

Or so I thought until I searched a bit more and found this [0]:

18 U.S. Code § 700 - Desecration of the flag of the United States; penalties:

(a) (1) Whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.

So I guess if you stepped on a flag the FBI could in fact arrest you.

[0]: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/700


That's not true anymore. Though, the law is still on the books, it cannot be enforced due to Texas v Johnson.[1]

Though, the author says that this is during WW2, so I wanted to clarify to any foreign readers that this isn't the case anymore in our modern judicial system.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_v._Johnson


It was in the middle of WWII. The FBI's zeal was pretty high at that time.


It was a tense time, so I can understand why such acts would be flagged (pun not intended).


My hypothesis is that the FBI knows some of its agents are useless, and keeps some busywork lying around to occupy them on slow news days.

I've had passive/aggressive managers saddle me with nonsense before, and sometimes they were just in a mood but if a pattern develops, it's because they can't find a way to fire you.

But, goodness gracious! Toying with people's lives, investigating random nobodies as if they might be criminals, as a side effect of interpersonal difficulties in the workplace? It's more likely than you think.


Just to be really clear since it seems some are missing the point -- this was around 70 years ago during World War II.


Pretty certain the comment could still apply today. Too dumb to promote to expensive to sack, give them shit no one else wants or make work to keep them out of the way.


I think the point is that it only applies today.

Also, nobody has actually pointed out an instance of this happening. The FBI has had several extremely high profile cases in the last year; if they are incompetent, they have managed not to be totally useless.


I am aware of the noted time period.


Investigating victimless crimes is safer then trying to find a maniac kidnapper who steals people for fun.

How many violent crimes are occurring while cops investigate some guy who wants to put drugs in his own body in his own house?


'Political crimes' often generate political pressure to investigate. If a Senator's office calls the FBI making a stir about something they're going to investigate as a matter of course. It's things like that that make me wonder whether lawmakers should actually be held incommunicado in prison-like conditions for the duration of their term, much as juries are sequestered in criminal cases.


this was in the 1940s during ww2


As i've discovered, there was an active law against flag desecration thst had not yet been declared unconstitutional in the general case. This may have less to do with the war than you might think.


Why the hell didn't they contact street car company and ask if someone was looking for them?


Most of the times starting with the wrong premise is worse than starting with no premise at all.


Presumably said "spy" would presume that the code was found, and thus useless for them to retrieve, thus making the risk of discovery outweigh any benefit of retrieval. So the "spy" almost certainly wouldn't show up, and now they've been tipped off that the code may be compromised and the FBI may have become involved exactly in the manner they did.


I mean them asking the car company would have Eliminated that. It is the first rational choice anyone would make.


But now governments can prosecute as soon as they know the act was committed(and have an identity to link it to). I don't think they'd even need to see the age of the child.


A hateful heart has helped many an FBI agent in such tasks. Never underestimate the power of hate. The FBI was practically built on it.


These stories from more simple times are always a great read, but for me they illustrate exactly how different and more aggressive our world is. Sure, they were rounding people up and putting them in camps. That needs to be mentioned. But visits from the FBI can no longer be waved off and childhood fun. They really do come back to haunt you. Being investigated is far less dangerous than falsely claiming that you weren't. In the past this would go undetected but today's electronic paper trails don't forget such things. They will notice.

The involvement of the school officials, even the parents, is also cute. Modern law enforcement doesn't hesitate to go strait to the kids. It is not unusual for a cop to pull a kid out of a class for a "chat" that could see them jailed. Parents often only hear about such things long after the fact.

The image of FBI agents in a black limo is precious. That is intimidating FBI man 101. They still do the 'parked in the driveway reading notes' thing today, but only where they don't feel under any threat. If there is any potential for a firearm at the location, or any hint that the suspect is in any way dangerous, they don't hang around as potential targets. If you see them doing the parked thing, wave. Say hi. Or don't. To intimidate they must first be seen. They will keep up the act until someone notices them. If you really want to make their week, get in your car and drive away. They love a good slow speed "chase" before confronting you somewhere out in the world.


The simple times in which, as you say, people were getting put in camps and the FBI routinely broke the law? There's always room for improvement but I don't think we have it quite as bad.


If you were a visible minority, those times were horrible. Few would debate that. But the average kid of any color today faces some very aggressive realities. Wozniak built a fake bomb as a school prank. Not a clock mistaken for a bomb, not a crypto scheme mistaken for a Japanese plot, a ticking bomb meant to terrify those who found it. And it did. Do that in 1973 and you can still go on to great things. Do that today and you'll be lucky to ever set foot in a normal school again. Good luck getting a passport after being investigated for bomb making, let alone the horror of being charged as an adult.


Do that today and you'll be lucky to ever set foot in a normal school again.

Do you know of any evidence of that sort of thing? While it certainly doesn't make your life easier, people bounce back and have fruitful careers even after outright federal convictions for computer-related crimes. Do you know of anyone being denied a passport for something they did as a juvenile?


Really? Google "Omar Khadr" (15yo). For something less extreme google "juvenile lifer". They certainly aren't getting passports, but I doubt many have tried as there is little need for passports in prison. Then for the everyday stuff google "charged as an adult". A juvenile charged as an adult receives an adult conviction and that can be reason to deny a passport.


Omar Khadr wasn't a US citizen. And yes, as awful putting underage people in prison is, that's not the same as being denied a passport for some random brush with the FBI which is your claim. I don't think 'Really?' is a license to change the subject to a completely different set of circumstances and use that as supporting evidence for your seemingly hyperbolic initial claims.


Prison is where young people get radicalized.


I'm not sure how that's related to 'kids who have a run-in with the law supposedly have a worse time than kids who got sent to camps'.


Internal monologue:

hmmmmmmm. This guy sure seems to have a ridiculously specific and detailed understanding of what it's like to be surveilled by the FBI...


Great read also lead me to his mongrel[0] post which is equally a great read. I've heard different things about getting a clearance, such as depending on the company and job position it could speed up the process altogether. I've heard different things about it from (past and present) co-workers and family. His stories are quite a decent read, will have to bookmark his site.

[0]: http://web.stanford.edu/~learnest/les/mongrel.htm


> I've heard different things about getting a clearance, such as depending on the company and job position it could speed up the process altogether.

My experience has been the opposite. During college, I had an internship at a defense contractor and I was the only Asian intern there (out of maybe 20 people). There were a couple of black guys and the rest were caucasian. IME, people of color had the hardest time obtaining a clearance. It took around 2.5 years for me and around 2 years for one of my black coworkers. The turnaround time for the white guys was a lot smaller.

I think this experience was for the best though - I left shortly afterward, because I won't stay where I'm not wanted.


There are natural reasons why getting clearance should be harder for those who aren't 3rd/4th generation native though, right.

Like, if I apply for a job in Nigeria that needs clearances, if the other guys are all from Nigeria then investigating their backgrounds are consistent, talking to their neighbours, etc., is relatively easy. Especially if they all have parents who already have files with identity info.

If I'm from Kenya, then first up you're going to need translators, then you're going to need political accord or covert operatives, birth records in rural Kenya possibly don't exist.

Also you want to leave me for a while on observation to see if I do anything suspicious; that needs time.

It doesn't matter if the Nigerians want me, to do the same level of investigation would take far longer.


> There are natural reasons why getting clearance should be harder for those who aren't 3rd/4th generation native though, right.

Why do you assume that non-white people are not "3rd/4th generation natives"? Black people have been in America since before the country even existed, whereas my own (white Italian) lineage has been here less than a hundred years.


I don't understand, where do you think I made that assumption?

The GP stated they were Asian, so presumably they at least have less establishment in USA than a person from USA.

Perhaps they meant their family at some point in the past came from Asia, but if they couldn't describe their heritage clearly that wouldn't really be my fault.


>The GP stated they were Asian, so presumably they at least have less establishment in USA than a person from USA.

Asian is just used as a description of someone's race in the US. It doesn't imply that a person was not born there. The OP also mentioned black coworkers without saying anything to indicate that they were not from the US.


In other words, you'd readily give Snowden a high clearance?


Yep! TBH I think it really says alot about the general failure of the US whistleblower statutes/protections that Snowden had to release information in the way that he did and has subsequently been so easy to vilify. IMHO ol' Eddy actually went about the leaking of classified info in a pretty responsible way with the whole Poitras/Greenwald "Big Trouble in Little Hong Kong." However you feel about the guy personally the import of his revelations is pretty undeniable insofar as it stimulated legitimate reforms of the systems he was criticizing (see: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275019554_The_Conse... http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-the-nsa-spying...) which seems to me to be the basic test for legit whistleblowing. So, yeah, I would give the little eccentric a pretty high clearance given his track record... I'd probably let him out of russia too.


Sorry I don't know Snowden's heritage or if he would check out under security clearance. He looks to me like he could have East European heritage. If his parents were from the country of Georgia, say, then I'd expect clearance processes to take far longer (with their local script I imagine far fewer security cleared translators, and that acquiring documents on parents/relatives would be much harder).

Does that not seem reasonable?


Where the BME from native families your parents background plays a big part

And for some clearances not having all four grandparents be natives is a big hurdle - it certainly use to be that way in the uk civil service when I started work


Black Americans are about as likely to have native born grandparents as white Americans, though. (I would guess.) It's amazing how strong the subconscious correlation between "not white" and "foreign" is in the US.


The use of "native" in this thread is confusing. My understanding is that in the US, the term is normally used to refer to "Native Americans"

I'm not sure what the correct term would be though. "Natural born citizen" normally means someone who is a citizen through birthright, usually, but not always, because they were born within the US.

The phrase that I've most commonly heard is "Nth generation American", but does this require all members of N generations to be citizens? My daughter is eligible to be a "Daughter of the Revolution", but I'm not (yet) a citizen


"Native American" is used to refer to Native Americans, but the term "native" by itself just has the normal range of meanings.


I always wonder how the word alien in the USA points to either a non-american human or a being from another planet. What kind of world view causes people to think there are 2 kinds of sentient beings in this universe: Americans and everything/everyone else.


Is easy to read to much things into something you don't have a good understanding of. But from my experience, assuming racism or something similar is usually premature and overly simplistic. There may be many reasons why a white persons process can take less time than someone black, when if he is naive born. Similarly if two white candidates have very different backgrounds.


>There may be many reasons why a white persons process can take less time than someone black, when if he is naive born

Obviously there can be reasons in specific cases, but there should be no reason why it takes longer in general. At least, no reason that I can see. What are you thinking of?

It is no doubt overly simplistic to assume conscious racism, but as this thread demonstrates, Americans who are not KKK racists nonetheless have a lot of subconscious attitudes regarding race that can have an influence.


Came here to post the same link. Such an interesting, insanely brilliant, character.

http://web.stanford.edu/~learnest/


A year or two after 9/11, I had a run-in with the FBI. I was living in an apartment, and one day at work, I got an email saying the local police were trying to contact me. I called them, and as the story went, the apartment people had come in to check my smoke alarm, and found some "suspicious items". It was never specified what the items were, but I think it was either my keg-o-rator or some of the electronics stuff I was always screwing with at the time. Or they just didn't like me as a tenant because my cats were tearing the place up. Anyway, I gave the local cop a tour of my apartment, thought everything was OK, then a couple of days later found a business card of an FBI agent on my porch, with "Call Me!" written on the back. So I called him back and arranged an apartment tour for him. (And here's how it ties into the article...) He showed up in a nondescript, white minivan, with another agent in tow, and they gave me what was, in retrospect, the most obvious good-cop, bad-cop routine you could imagine. He was a big, smiling, easy-talking buddy of a guy, and she was a harsh, suspicious hag of a battle-axe. I didn't have anything to hide, but looking back, if I did I might have totally fallen for it...


Yeah, thats the beutifull thing about police states, noone wants to be responsible, so everytime some suspicious stuff is found (which in todays clueless society, running on black magic and fairy dust includes nearly everything) it has to propagate up the clueless chain to somone able to make a judgment and dismiss. So lots of people will waste your time - for nothing. So you better hide your soldering iron from idiots.


I would get a lawyer after the first email.


Dude you should totally watch "Herbie the Love Bug" for a bit of a laugh! Guy gets accused of stealing a car and has to answer for it, even though he knows he's innocent. Miranda Rights are awesome haha.


I love how the story ends with a loving discussion of cycling competition and thinking of safety by way of helmets. Meanwhile, as smart as the narrator might be, it's funny how easily things can be overlooked.

Cycling is one of the most cheating, dirty sports in the world. Sprinting is close, so is swimming. But talking about cyphers and codes and then somehow getting into a discussion about cycling just reminds me so much of Dr. Ferrari and Lance Armstrong.

If you're not cheating, you're not trying. If the FBI is on your tail, you've screwed up somewhere. The devil's in the details...


Les is quite something. He helped setup SAIL, the AI lab in Stanford with John McCarthy, wrote the first search engine in 1961, and made the first self-driving car.

http://web.stanford.edu/~learnest/les/

https://web.stanford.edu/~learnest/les/sailing.pdf

Oh, and he made the first social network: FINGER


I want to read a book by the guy.

Amongst other achievements, Les Earnest was an actor, basketball manager and inventor of the search engine.

http://web.stanford.edu/~learnest/les/vita.htm


> Two years later I regained my seat on the board as the riders finally figured out that the strong helmet rule was a good thing. It then started spreading around the world and has since become standard in racing organizations almost everywhere, saving hundreds of lives and preventing thousands of serious head injuries. I’m proud of that.

Such a small section of this brief biography for such a valuable contribution.

I guess your most important life's work doesn't make as interesting a story as when you've gotten yourself into trouble.


> However about twelve years later I learned by chance that putting slightly provocative information on a security clearance form can greatly speed up the clearance process.

I remember reading this decades ago and wondering what this might be. Now he's explained it! I'm glad I looked at this again.


If you haven't yet, read the linked article. It's a very entertaining read that expands on this, although a bit long.

[0] http://www.stanford.edu/~learnest/les/mongrel.htm


Yes, the linked article, "Can computers cope with human races?" is the funniest thing I've read since Richard Feynamn's book "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" [0].

[0] Courtesy of Northwestern University

http://www.earth.northwestern.edu/~amir/files/Richard_P_Feyn...


You could take this guy's stories and insert them into Surely You're Joking... and hardly notice honestly. Totally the same style and outlook.


I actually appreciate this one more. I feel like I have been reading a letter from an elderly person whose way of thinking and weltanschauung I can relate to. I am not a young person anymore, but always have been generally disgusted when talking to boomers and older generations about sociology.


I'm glad the government wasn't as good at monitoring things back in the 90s. I downloaded every version of PGP I could find once it was declared illegal for export. They don't even know what a dangerous guy I am, willing to use cryptography to keep them from reading my stuff.


Hasn't it been shown that mandatory helmet use has significantly reduced bike usage in the US?


Yes, but it was concurrent with the automobile-ification of the US, so it's hard to trace that to causal effect vs. correlation.

Here's a decent review from 2013. There may be new research, so if you have a better source, please share.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/do-bi...


I'm not sure about what US statistics are available, nor about how many US towns have such rules, but this is often cited as the explanation for why bike shares fail in many Australian cities that would seem to be perfect places for them.

To borrow from the recurrent discussions on this issue: if biking requires you to suit up for urban warfare in spandex and armor, it's a much greater hassle, making you less inclined to bike. Furthermore, you look like a weirdo to people who may have been thinking of biking but don't want to deal with that large barrier to entry.

So bike usage decreases, robbing us of the health benefits and probably making biking more dangerous because cars aren't looking for the rare cyclist like they ought to. Helmets in fast or competitive biking make loads of sense, though.


Is there mandatory helmet use (other than for kids?)

The article in question is about mandatory use in bicycle racing.


Helmet use is mandatory for adults here in Seattle. I don't know how common such laws are in other areas.

I haven't had a bicycle since the law was introduced - not because of the law, specifically, but I feel grouchy about the idea of being forced to wear a helmet while doing nothing more dramatic than tootling around my neighborhood, and the law has therefore helped reduce my enthusiasm for bicycling generally.


There is a recent video of him where he did a speech after being designated as a “Significant Sig” by Sigma Chi Fraternity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEx9R0quRR0&feature=youtu.be

He seems to have created a YouTube account just to post the video, so I got the chance to become his first subscriber!

What an interesting person, and what a life he have lived!


In Hoc Signo Vinces!


Bet this guy would've got along well with Richard Feynman.


http://www.saildart.org/FINGER.SAI[P,SYS]13 is the SAIL source code to Les Earnest's finger program.


I love how he just throws in that story about running into "Alabama" and how she looked sexy. From a younger man I might have been tempted to call it a "humble brag" about how he chatted up a cute girl but didn't bother pursuing anything. But from an older guy, it made me smile because it's the sort of thing we sometimes just remember for years.


OT my uncle does underwater passive listening for the Naval Electronics Laboratory, same as in the fine article. Apparently whales can mess up the sound analysis.


Is this comment some sort of honeypot?


How would that work?


Watch all attempts to procure further information, make info available to track said "uncle" see who uses that info? I'm not a spook. It just seemed like a really strange thing to mention, the only use for the information I could think of was to find a naval worker who probably has a clearance rating.


[flagged]


We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14230478 and marked it off-topic.


[flagged]


He's 86 years old now. I'm not sure he's all that concerned about losing future security clearance.


Is your position that immigrants should be expedited through the immigration process?


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14230478 and marked it off-topic.


The post I was responding to was off-topic as well.


... I think those who risked their lives by being translators for our armed forces are probably due a bit of a fast lane.


I think it's actually part of the deal when they give you the job, if not specifically then it is certainly alluded to.


You'd think that, but it's not actually what happens a lot of the time, in my understanding. John Oliver did a whole show about it.


Why wouldn't they have that information easily available on file then? Why the whole detaining process for 4 hours when it should have been something easily checked?


4 hours was fast, sheesh. You instatwitter generation... :)


Yes, they should, but bureaucracies are inept.


[flagged]


Reread the OPs post then because it did


Reread it again.


[flagged]


I don't think that's the case, I'm sure it wasn't meant like that, but your original reply did seem a little... provocative?

Added to that, it's generally bad form to discuss the meta without adding to the conversation, which i suspect your post above picked up downvotes. I would expect to get downvoted for this reply too tbh.

It's not a smugness thing, it's too avoid conversations getting bogged down in this sort of tedious exposition.

For what it's worth, I didn't downvote your post, if it makes you feel any better.


Please describe how it was provocative.


I obviously don't know why everybody who downvoted you did, and I don't have the inclination to argue about it - I genuinely don't care that much - but...

"Is your position that immigrants should be expedited through the immigration process?"

Could be construed as a fairly challenging stance, given the very direct nature of your request for clarification and the endpoint you extrapolated.

Face to face, asking that with a raised eyebrow or a smile wouldn't seem overly challenging, but plaintext loses any nuance and much of its context.


For a country that talks the talk when it comes to praising your service men and women, it doesn't always walk the walk, especially when those people are brown and/or non-christian.


The exception makes the rule. America is still great for people of all color.


"The exception [that] proves the rule" is a saying whose meaning has been interpreted or misinterpreted in various ways. Its true, or at least original, meaning is that the presence of an exception applying to a specific case establishes ("proves") that a general rule exists.


That's exactly the meaning I am conveying.


Did you miss the part where gp said they were translating for the US Army?


My comment doesn't reference the GP. Did you miss that?


Ok, I get it you're a prolific hacker and well respected... But why does your website have to look like it's from 1994?


Maybe because 1994 had something right-- his pages load VERY quickly, are dense with interesting information, and display sensible in all browsers; you can't say that about the vast majority of the modern web.


> vast majority of the modern web

Must've hit a sore spot or something...

Even without a degree in design one can see that this page is nearly unreadable. The easiest (but not the only) thing to fix is to limit the width of the column of text.


Unreadable? Hardly. It's text on a page. It's astonishingly readable.

Why limit the width of the text? If I want it wider, I'll make it wider; if I want it narrower, I'll make it narrower. This is something I can do with a relatively plain text webpage.

Edit: Although I see sdiq below had a browser that apparently couldn't handle plain HTML without help from him. Perhaps something in your browser is making it unreadable.


A basic width limit really is a good idea, but something simple like max-width:50em;margin:auto; (so that the text column gets appropriately larger/smaller with page zoom) is plenty for that.


oh god no, please, if you want another width resize your window.


> The easiest (but not the only) thing to fix is to limit the width of the column of text.

You can resize your window to whatever size you want.


I added a padding on the div element because the text stretches too wide on my display. Other than that, it's fast and readable. the only improvement i can think of is max-width:80vw or something like that.


Unreadable? I read this and the mongrel one and had no problems, sure I had to zoom in to view it just right, but any lack of style points are made up with the excellent content.


I had to tinker with the CSS on Chrome developer tools just so as to read the story. Regardless, a very interesting story with one of the most important part of his life story buried down there somewhere - his success in advocating for strong bike helmets.


Preferences aside, that says more about Chrome honestly.


Better at running Javascript "Apps" than rendering HTML.


Not a chrome user, but doesn't chrome have a "reader view" like firefox or safari?


What did you change about the CSS? Width?


it's absolutely delicious that a person of your username made such a comment




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