The Worst Job

By Shamus Posted Sunday Apr 23, 2017

Filed under: Personal 96 comments

The modem coughs and screams like someone beatboxing to white noise. Why the shit do modems always default to ear-splitting volume levels, and why can I never remember where you go to change it?

The connection happens and I’m ready to begin work for the day. I open Microsoft Outlook Express, hit “Check Email”, and then brace myself for the worst part of the day.

It’s 1997.

Part of my job involves answering technical questions from our users. This means my email is public. It’s posted on our website, and it’s in my signature on the message board. Which means spam bots have had years to discover it. Which means all the spammers have it. Also, a couple of years ago our company went from free-to-play to a paid model. This pissed people off, and part of the public backlash / protest was that someone signed our emails up for various porn mailing lists.

I don’t know if it’s the mailing lists or the spam bots, but these days I get between one and two hundred emails a day, and 90% of them are advertisements for pornography.

Maybe if you’re young you imagine “porn” means HD video of attractive people doing obvious things that I don’t need to belabor here. But this is 1997, and spammers don’t yet have vast botnets of compromised machines to deliver their spam payload. The internet is slow, bandwidth is expensive, and spammers still sort of pay to send out their spam.

Because of this, they want to keep the image size down. So almost every email has some postage-stamp image attached. It’s either a non-animated GIF that’s been smashed down to ~16 colors, or a JPG with the compression-vs-quality slider set to “garbage”. Because of the limited detail available, the spammers have to crop the images to the most “important” elements. And to the spammers, the most important part of a pornographic image is the vagina.

So this is my morning. A couple hundred emails containing 160×160 images of blurry vaginas. The images are often so horrible that you can barely tell what you’re looking at. It’s just a gradient of flesh tones. If you didn’t know from context that these were vaginas, you might guess some of them were armpits. There’s no sense of who is in the picture, what they’re doing, or what position they’re in. Maybe about 1 in 5 of them will show penetration. Again, it will be zoomed in to the point where it feels more like a nature special than something designed to be titillating.

Once in a while you’ll get a picture of a girl’s face. This might sound nice, but these are not happy playful models. The girls are dead-eyed and sullen, or wearing awful forced smiles. And even if a healthy, pretty face makes it through, doesn’t get cropped, and survives the compression process, it doesn’t help because her face is re-contextualized by the other images. It’s like if you take a portrait of a normal, healthy, genial guy and mix it in with a bunch of Charles Manson-looking serial killers. He doesn’t brighten up the lineup. Instead, his smile takes on a sinister quality.

Since most images are faceless, I’m left with the impression that everyone in these pictures is just as miserable as the unhappy looking ones. All of the images take on an insidious, desperate quality, like Polaroids sent by kidnappers.

I don’t want to see this stuff. It’s not sexy. I don’t know a lot about sex, but I’m willing to make a guess that a majority of people – even a majority of young guys – don’t find this arousing. It’s actually kind of depressing and disturbing. This is probably what it feels like to have someone expose themselves to you in public. It feels like it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it actually leaves you feeling kind of gross and you’re not sure why.

The best spam filtering tools of the day are not adequate to this job, and I’m using Microsoft Outlook, which is pretty far from the best tools of the day. It’s based on keywords, which doesn’t help when the entire email is just an image with a neon pink comic sans URL over a vagina. You can hide images, but people have a bad habit of using images as their email / message board signature, and part of my job involves dealing with screenshots that people send me. Turning images on and off on a per-email basis makes this entire task that much more of a time-sink, and I end up seeing a lot of vaginas anyway.

What I really need is a rule to hide all images in messages without text, but Outlook doesn’t have a way to do thatIt didn’t occur to me at the time, but if email programs did that then spammers would just add a bunch of random garbage text to their payload.. It also doesn’t let me turn off all images, but provide a convenient button to turn them on for one particular email. Instead it’s all-or-nothing, and the option to change it is buried three levels deep in a sub-menu. This is stupid. I can’t be the only one with this problem, can I?

“I’m an adult now,” I think to myself. “I can handle this.” It’s just body parts, right? Don’t get hung up on the human form. Nothing to be ashamed of. I’ll just delete the crap on move on.

It takes me a while to notice, but it’s not actually that easy. This task leaves me in a foul mood. I’m angry. I don’t even know who I’m angry at. Microsoft, for having such terrible tools? The pornographers, for having such appalling taste? The spammers, for being human vermin?

I try to keep my eyes at the top of the screen. I’ll read the subject title and hit delete without looking down if it seems suspect, or if I perceive fleshtones at the edge of my vision. Again, this makes the job sort of fiddly. I end up seeing a lot of stuff I don’t want to, and I delete a few things I need to answer. This is always awkward and makes it look like I’m shirking my job. It’s not like I can tell my boss, “Yeah, that guy sent me beige screenshots and so I deleted it because I thought it was a vagina.”

The Future is Here!

It’s been 20 years since those bad old days, I couldn’t be more pleased with how things turned out. If you’d asked me in 1997 what I thought the future was going to look like, I would have predicted one of two things:

  1. As bandwidth increases, the web will begin drowning in pornography.
  2. In response to #1, people will start passing laws that try to enforce American Television standards onto the web. (Because think of the children!) Porn will disappear into an underground of anonymous proxies and offshoreMeaning “Not in the United States”. servers. In turn, this might actually increase the volume of porn spam as the sites attempt to broadcast how to find their roaming servers.

But it turns out neither of those happened. We’ve got better filtering tools and the web got more civilized. Pornographers put up age gates and warning pages so you can’t stumble in accidentally. Porn spam is now a very small portion of global spam, which is itself less of a problem than it used to be. Gmail’s service-wide filters can make us almost immune to email spam.

People who want porn can find it right away, and people that don’t will never have to see it. Everybody wins. I’ve got multiple email accounts, I run a popular-ish website, and I do regular image searches, and yet I can’t remember the last time I was exposed to anything nasty. I regularly do Google Image Searches, and it’s never a problem. The Google filters are now so good that I turned OFF Safe Search a few years back and haven’t run into a situation where I regretted it. I think the last time I saw something remotely pornographic was when I played HuniePop, and I did that to myself.

I get that as you get older you’re supposed to start looking back at the “good old days”, but it hasn’t happened to me yet. The past sucks. The future is excellent. I hope I get to live in it for a long time.

 

Footnotes:

[1] It didn’t occur to me at the time, but if email programs did that then spammers would just add a bunch of random garbage text to their payload.

[2] Meaning “Not in the United States”.



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96 thoughts on “The Worst Job

  1. newplan says:

    I've got multiple email accounts, I run a popular-ish website, and I do regular image searches, and yet I can't remember the last time I was exposed to anything nasty.

    That’s like saying “nothing could possibly go wrong!” in a horror movie.

  2. Fizban says:

    The Google filters are not so good that I turned OFF Safe Search a few years back and haven't run into a situation where I regretted it.

    Extraneous not?

    1. Shamus says:

      Thanks!

      Typing “not” instead of “now” is a mistake I make a lot. It doesn’t break any spelling / grammar rules, it’s usually invisible when I’m proofing, and it totally inverts the meaning of what I’m saying. Hate it. I just know someday I’m going to accidentally say something really awful.

      1. silver Harloe says:

        I’m now a member of the modern Nazi party.
        I’m now in favor of eating children.
        I love my wife not more than I did before.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I did now have sexual relations with that woman.

          1. Geebs says:

            Apply not to receive this special pre-order bonus!

          2. Sunshine says:

            I mean, I didn’t before the inquiry, but we just had a quickie in a side office.

      2. droid says:

        Do or do now, there is no try.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          This is not my favorite joke here.

      3. Henson says:

        If now us, who? If now not, when?

        1. Syal says:

          Hot not, brown cot.

        2. Sunshine says:

          “If now us, who?” Sounds like it’s time to draw straws.

      4. Phill says:

        I spent several days last winter shovelling the snot off my drive.

        1. Henson says:

          We have a winner.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            You mean tinner

            1. Henson says:

              I don’t knot that what is.

      5. Mephane says:

        These are now the droids you are looking for.

        1. Durican says:

          Okay that one got me laughing out loud at work.

  3. Pete_Volmen says:

    Man am I happy that I never had a job like that…
    As an aside, is it just me or are you cursing more often? Not that I mind either way.

    1. Son of Valhalla says:

      That job probably would’ve been easy to me. I’ve had friends I’ve recorded music with pull up photos of women and vaginas while recording. Like, dude… have some decency and professionalism.

      I’ve seen so many vaginas online, including pterodactyl sex enactments. Once you witness the dark side of the Internet, it’s hard not to be desensitized by these things. I probably would have just laughed it off.

      1. Pete_Volmen says:

        The nudity wouldn’t bother me. Being a human spam filter though? Hell no.

        1. Son of Valhalla says:

          Might still be doable, as long as you don’t get too deeply ingrained into the job.

          1. Sunshine says:

            I remember a news story a while where someone tracking down and removing child porn for Canadian law enforcement quit the job and went into therapy when he realised it was starting to arouse him.

  4. TheAngryMongoose says:

    The Google filters are now so good that I turned OFF Safe Search a few years back and haven't run into a situation where I regretted it.

    Google moved from three safe search options to two, and as far as I can tell ‘off’ operates in two modes depending on whether it thinks you’re including explicitly pornographic terms.
    It can be interesting if you’re searching for something that sits on the border, for example Google recognises “Panty and Stocking” as the name of the anime and will operate in safe mode, but if you add one more racy term to that (I was looking for a particular gif so I searched “Panty and Stocking perky”) then the entire results page becomes (non-anime) pornography

    1. Oh yes. I was searching for pirate images for the children’s book I was working on last year. I learned an awful lot very quickly things I did not want to know.

  5. Raion says:

    I get that as you get older you're supposed to start looking back at the “good old days”, but it hasn't happened to me yet. The past sucks. The future is excellent. I hope I get to live in it for a long time.

    Haha, so much this. I am eternally grateful I don’t have to live in the past anymore and perennialy pissed off that I won’t get to see the marvels of the future beyond my projected expiry date.

    1. King Marth says:

      Have you considered cryogenic preservation?

      From our current understanding of physics, I regret but have some degree of acceptance that there will come a time when everything is the same temperature and no further action can occur due to maximal entropy. That said, I at least want to see it happen.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        The heat death of the universe is so far in the future*, that it’s really not even the timeline I bother thinking about. Our sun will last another five billion-ish years, which is a small fraction of the time until the heat death of the universe, but still long enough. For the sake of argument, I’ll round that down to one billion years, and assume that humans live for exactly 100 years as fully grown healthy adults, with no time spent growing up, or time spent slowly having their body fall apart. Even under those premises, that’s enough time for ten million lifetimes. I personally would love to be un-aging, but I also would probably go stir-crazy long before the sun burned out. :)

        * According to wikipedia, it’s 10^100 years for a supermassive black hole, which would be the final/ultimate power source for our galaxy.

      2. Jordan says:

        Ah yes, Cryogenics. Allowing yourself to purposefully be murdered in the hopes that somehow future humans will develop techology capable of unmurdering you before your corpse loses its minty freshness.

        Somehow it has never seemed to appealing to me.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          No,current cryogenics dont allow you to be murdered,but rather freeze you when you die from other causes(say a deadly disease).Now,while you could kill yourself intentionally in order to be a young corpse,I somehow doubt that the police would allow your body to be tampered with soon after discovery,which is a significant prerequest for cryogenics.

          1. Richard says:

            Indeed, cryogenics is making the bet that all of the following will come true:

            A) In The Future, there will be technology capable of resurrecting the recently-deceased.

            B) It’ll still work on frozen corpses. (Corpsicles?)

            C) Your corpse will not have been damaged too much by the current freezing process.

            D) Your corpsicle will suffer any significant mishaps after freezing, staying perfectly preserved until The Future.

            E) Somebody in The Future will decide to use this (probably very expensive) technology to resurrect you in particular.

            This bet has very long odds.
            On the other hand, perhaps “minuscule possibility of zombie resurrection” is sufficiently better than “ash and/or worm food” to be worth giving your unused cash to a cryogenics lab instead of some living people and/or charities that you like.

            Personally, I’ll be giving my leftover cash to living people I like.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Not only that,but also:

              F) The future will have a cure for whatever killed you(was killing you) before you got froznen

              and

              G) The future will be able to prolong your life to a reasonable degree,so that you dont end up being unfrozen to live for just one more month.

              All that said,youll be dead either way,so you have nothing to lose by having your corpse turned into a scone instead of worm food or fertilizer.

              Also,all of those reasons make the cheaper option of having just your head being frozen equally as efficient as having your whole body frozen.Having your brain revived and put into a new body is just as implausible now as reviving it inside your own corpse.

              1. MichaelG says:

                No, no, no. You are going to have your brain destructively scanned and simulated. Wake up as an AI. Much more feasible than resurrecting your corpse.

                I just finished reading “We Are Legion” by Dennis Taylor, which has this premise. Our hero’s corpse is declared property of a corporation that bid for his remains. He doesn’t mind though, since they want to make his AI the brains of a self-replicating space probe. Whee!

                Readable, if not exactly pushing the boundaries of SF.

                1. Sunshine says:

                  Sounds initially similar to Larry Niven’s A World Out Of Time, where our hero is woken to be told that the World State has gutted his body for DNA to revive his body and memory RNA to revive his mind, and so both are owned by the State. Again, they want him to man a exploratory starship, by which he slips their leash.

            2. Decius says:

              Tiny odds of success multiplied by gargantuan value of success with comparatively low cost of trying can come out to positive expected value.

              Some people want to achieve immortality through their works. Some people want to achieve immortality through not dying.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    If you didn't know from context that these were vaginas, you might guess some of them were armpits

    How can you be sure its porn then?Maybe you were actually getting various deodorant commercials and mistook them all for vaginas.

    1. silver Harloe says:

      It’s the URLs over them that give away the difference?

      Except for poor “Sexy Whores” underarm spray, which sadly never seemed to satisfy the people who found their site, and never seemed to find its customer base.

      1. Lachlan the Mad says:

        I believe that there are generous Nigerian princes with a very similar problem.

    2. djw says:

      You forget that in the early days of the internet the ONLY thing on the internet was porn.

      Now, if armpit porn exists (and, *shudder*, it probably does) then you might have a point.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        What do you mean “in the early days”?Are you implying that that changed?

      2. 4th Dimension says:

        Just FYI the tag “armpit-sex” exists on certain sites that deal with explicit drawn content from a far away eastern country.
        And no I don’t get what it means, and no I don’t want to know.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The modem coughs and screams like someone beatboxing to white noise.

    For those too young to remember,this is what he is talking about.Youre welcome.

    EDIT:Awww,you removed the youtube embed plugin? :( Just when I got used to it.

    1. Son of Valhalla says:

      I’ve only ever heard the beginning noises before, but the end? Shamus’ simile is spot-on.

    2. Son of Valhalla says:

      Dial-up is still in use.

      It’s a little scary to find that people still use this stuff in 2017. 2.1 million people, to be exact.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        From the same article: Some U.S. government agencies are still using Windows 3.1. I thought it was bad that the Canadian government was using Windows XP, but 3.1 is worse. I reeeeaaallly hope all these old computers are behind modern, secure firewalls / networks. Yikes!

        1. Bryan says:

          Eh, I don’t think 3.1 had much in the way of networking. If I remember right you still had to set it up in DOS anyway.

          So I’m not sure a firewall is strictly necessary, as the machine has a pretty good one of its own (that is, “disallow everything because I don’t have any idea what this chunk of hardware is or how to use it” :-) ).

        2. Nessus says:

          My understanding is that some agencies, such as the military and NASA, strongly prefer hardware and software that’s around 15 years behind the curve. The idea is that tech which has been around that long has been thoroughly stress-tested and patched, so it’s much more stable and reliable than something brand new. The phrase “blue screen of death” takes on uncomfortably literal overtones when it’s happening on a submarine.

          Though IIRC NASA and military systems use custom OSs, not Windows. At least, I bloody well hope they do.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Probably some customized form of Linux; though according to Wikipedia, the ISS runs on Debian since 2013:

            The operating system used for key station functions is the Debian Linux distribution. The migration from Microsoft Windows was made in May 2013 for reasons of reliability, stability and flexibility.

          2. Shoeboxjeddy says:

            Plus side to this policy: invulnerable to modern viruses and hack attempts.

            Negative side to this policy: occasionally hacked by rotary phones and or whistles from cereal boxes.

          3. Decius says:

            The only general purpose computers on a Trident SSBN in 2005 were for paperwork and recreation.

            The engine room had some reactor safety logic that was literally implemented with relays acting as logic gates, and the Nav and Weapons divisions had some Top Secret systems that weren’t permitted to have I/O hardware capable of exporting data to anything except other TS hardware.

          4. If I remember correctly the last space shuttle still had Win 3.1.

            1. Sunshine says:

              As I remember (possibly incorrectly) the Shuttle’s critical systems ran on older, more basic, more proven software, but they also had “space-rated” laptops for “less important than remaining alive and returning to Earth” purposes”.

          5. Sunshine says:

            A remember that a while ago, it came out that the hub of the US nuclear missile command is a really old computer, that they haven’t updated because it’s reliable.

            The report said that the Department of Defence systems that co-ordinated intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft “runs on an IBM Series-1 Computer – a 1970s computing system – and uses eight-inch floppy disks”.
            “This system remains in use because, in short, it still works,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt Col Valerie Henderson told the AFP news agency.

        3. Son of Valhalla says:

          If they can’t upgrade to Windows 10, they should at least resort to using typewriters! I hear some government facilities still do.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        Growing up my family had dial-up until 2009. I moved away to college that year and discovered the wonders of always-on high-speed internet access that’s actually fast enough to do things like watch YouTube videos (mind-blowing! I mean yes I’d seen faster internet at the library and friends’ houses and whatnot, but actually having it at home…).

        Some of my internet browsing habits are directly traceable to having dial-up when I was just discovering the web, like always having a gazillion tabs open because loading multiple things in parallel in the background instead of serially is a no-brainer with that kind of (lack of) speed.

        (It’s also part of why I didn’t get a Steam account until 2011; it just wasn’t feasible before so I knew practically nothing about it.)

        1. Son of Valhalla says:

          I still had decent Internet speed, not dial-up, but I had something almost as bad, if not worse: a wifi hotspot.

          From 2013 to 2014, my Internet consisted of a hotspot with 4 GB of data. Now, this would be doable, except for one month where I wanted to play Rome Total War and REALLY wanted to download it. Subsequently, I thought I could use the data to download the game. I was mistaken when my parents got upset that I accidentally used Internet data and went over.

          Afterwards, we got Century Link, which runs at a speed of 3 MB every two hours. Nevertheless, it was enough to finally have a constant Internet connection.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wait a minute…You mean offering users better tools to filter what they wish is better than simply blanket banning everything?Quick,someone find the owners of youtube and tell them that this amazing google company has done it so that they can….ohh….oh,right……

    1. silver Harloe says:

      I think if it were up to google they’d let porn on there and just have their algorithms mark it as porn and not show it to people who didn’t ask for it. If they were directly funded by the viewers (as in an expanded youtube red) they’d probably just charge for the minute on the pron and by the month for the regular videos and call it a very lucrative day.

      But youtube is trying to sell advertisements, so they need to appeal to people who think we can’t tell commercials from content and thus are afraid that if their commercial touches “bad” content, we’ll get all confused and think their products are “bad” in the same way.

      1. Viktor says:

        Nah, there’s legal reasons at play as well. If your corp is paying a terrorist group, in some jurisdictions that can lead to a serious investigation. Coke execs would rather not have to take that risk. (Even though most governments have actively avoided prosecuting large companies in any significant way, YouTube ads just aren’t worth the hassle.)

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          What Id like to know is:Why are we having this discussion now?Wasnt it clear,years ago when google ads were just starting,that it pairs up what the user is searching with with the ad,regardless of where that ad is at the time?Isnt the same thing being used by youtube?I mean recently when the elections were going on in my country I got ads for the candidates on videos that were in english or in serbian,music videos as well as lets plays,colberts videos as well as bbc videos,….Isnt it clear to everyone that the algorithms pick WHO is viewing the video rather than WHAT they are viewing?

          1. silver Harloe says:

            Recently (a couple weeks ago? a month ago?) a bunch of major advertisers pulled out of youtube and the incomes of all youtube content creators were noticeably and quite largely affected by it. So that’s why people are talking about it now instead of years ago… but I have no idea why it took so long for that to happen.

          2. Arakus says:

            “Isnt it clear to everyone that the algorithms pick WHO is viewing the video rather than WHAT they are viewing?” Actually CGP grey made a video about YouTube advertising recently and the video content is part of how it decides what ad to show, not just the user’s data. Link: https://youtu.be/KW0eUrUiyxo

            1. Decius says:

              Video content is part of the user data.

    2. Droid says:

      You just made my day!

  9. Toby says:

    …the web got more civilized.

    Hate to tell you this, but I seem to have heard something or other about trolls on the internet, and from what I hear, they’re actually worse than the ones in the stories.
    Also, the unwanted emails containing female genitalia have apparently undergone a sex change.

    1. Hal says:

      Things might be more civilized in terms of pornography; there isn’t quite the stream of genitals being launched at you from every quarter.

      The flip side is that we’ve entered the age of social media, and whatever civility we gained seems to be outweighed by the losses there.

  10. TMC_Sherpa says:

    You need to add M0 to your initialization string ol’ man.

    Also I hope whoever decided that the default volume on a modem should be ear piercing was fired. Or at least locked in a closet at a moderately sized BBS until they said they were sorry.

    Also also, the search box is still too high relative to the drop down boxes.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      It used to be too low.So soon,its going to end up being juust right.

      1. TMC_Sherpa says:

        If he sets the margin on searchform to -5 o o from -7 0 0 it will cancel the 5px margin_bottom on label.
        Or remove the margin_bottom property.
        Or I guess I could actually fix the problem and figure out where he needs to remove the label tag but I’m not sure which package (if any) he’s using for the the header/sidebar thingy.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Maybe remove formating completely for mobile versions.The plain look worked fine,even though it did not have pictures.

      1. Son of Valhalla says:

        As I’m reading through comments, the comment section is about half the size of the article going from left to right.

      2. The plain theme was a result of Jetpack (wordpress.com’s all in one extra stuff plugin bundle), which has been turned off due in part to complaints but also for speed issues.

    2. Sunshine says:

      Talking of iPads, my iPad (Air) can load the front page, and load an article, but if I scroll the article Safari falls over. Which it does kind of often and I’m a few iOS updates behind, but that’s reproduceable. Load a page, yes. Read it, no.

  11. Henson says:

    I still get tons of spam at work, but that’s because my employers use Dreamscape for their email server. Most of what we get is political or shopping-related, and all the sex-related messages are trying to sell us natural erection remedies.

  12. Joe Informatico says:

    The porn filters partly got better because small armies of human moderators are blocking it (and other, worse things) from social media in real-time. AKA, the even worse Worst Job.

    1. Kronopath says:

      That’s part of it. The other part is the algorithms that can auto-flag NSFW images. For example, Yahoo actually open-sourced a neural net that can classify images as NSFW or SFW. (This link is SFW.)

      Where it gets really interesting is when you take that neural net and reverse it, in order to take a look at what it decides is NSFW. Someone did just that, and the results actually resemble some kind of deep-dream version of what Shamus is talking about in this article (THIS LINK IS VERY MUCH NSFW).

      Of course, someone, somewhere, had to generate all the training data for this neural net by manually flagging gigabytes and gigabytes of images as either SFW or NSFW. That, surely, is the modern iteration of The Worst Job.

  13. King Marth says:

    Hrm, your footnotes seem to have changed, I now need to enable cookies to view them. Not too strenuous a request for a known site, but I’m a little curious as to which part of the infrastructure suddenly added that requirement.

    Most people don’t run browsers in such a stripped-down mode as me, but as a result I get to see all sorts of ways where web designers failed to consider their fallback cases.

    1. If I remember correctly part of the footnote change was due to issues with reading on mobile as well as our process of exporting old content for future bundling into book form (i.e. the MAss Effect series). But of course now I can’t remember the details.

  14. I imagine that put you off Arby’s for…the rest of your life.

  15. Phantos says:

    blurry vaginas

    Look, Bigfoot needed the money, don’t shame.

    We’ve all had bad years with the finances.

  16. Duoae says:

    I was late to the internet party but early enough that I had dial-up for around three years. I remember the sound of the modem fondly but I obviously don’t miss the speed. :)

    What was a real cultural thing that I’m sure many younger people have difficulty imagining was that you had to use the phone line to either accept phone calls or provide internet. You couldn’t do both on the same line and you had to purchase a second landline if you wanted that sort of functionality. That wasn’t cheap!

    As a result, to use the internet, you usually did so after everyone else had gone to sleep. I remember posting on message boards between 23:00 and 03:00 every night (I was quite addicted at one point) but gradually the lustre of the ‘new thing’ wore off and I became more sensible about it. Then we got cable broadband – such a revelation…

    [edit] Oh, I just realised there’s a paragraph indent bug in chrome for the comments. I thought everyone was ‘quoting’ their first paragraph from someone else’s post.

    http://imgur.com/a/cE2w3

    1. Bryan says:

      The image you posted looks the same as the way I see the comments in firefox, so it’s not just a chrome thing. It just changed today — earlier in the day the comments were all lined up on the left margin of the comment div/box/whatever-it’s-called.

      If I had to guess, I’d say it’s *probably* related to the gravatar image, since the indentation matches the right side of the gravatars pretty well. But not sure why it’s only affecting the first paragraph of the comments…

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I was about to mention this.It really look distracting to have the first paragraph be like that.

    2. evilmrhenry says:

      Oh, that’s what was going on. (Firefox here.) I thought half the comments were getting dropped or something.

    3. Philadelphus says:

      Ah, so I’m not going crazy. It wasn’t doing that earlier today when I first read the article, and now it is.

    4. 4th Dimension says:

      Yeah, I posted that to the new theme post. Basically the first paragraph is too high so it gets snagged by the avatar when aligning to the left.
      Fix is simple. Just add 6px to the bottom margin of the date. At least in Google Chrome.
      Also inputting this into the console should fix the alignment on current page.
      $(“.comment-meta”).css(“margin-bottom”,”6px”)

      EDIT/PS: You will need to change the current quotes into normal plain ones since the wordpress seems to replace them with the fancy ones.

  17. Mort says:

    I’m having an issue trying to read the DM of the Rings comics, and I can’t find any information anywhere about how to fix it. I clicked the next page link and now the right side of every image is cut off, in both chrome and edge. I know this isn’t tech support but does anyone here in the comments section have any idea how to fix it?

    1. Bryan says:

      In style.css, line 310, there’s a setting making .insetimage 1024px wide. This seems to be zooming in the DMotR images quite a lot. Dropping it (that is, unchecking the box in firefox’s developer tools) removes the zoom and makes them fit in the page, but I don’t know what other side effects that might have. The .entry class div also has a 1024px width…

      Edit: Dropping the 100px/100px left and right padding on the .entry-text style bit fixes it differently (by making the image the same width as the box it’s in)… but it’s still zoomed in weirdly.

    2. 4th Dimension says:

      A quick workaround for the reader is to lower the width of the browser window so the mobile users media tags trigger and loose the stupid width 1024px stretching.

      Also apparently in this case CSS overrode the HTML attributes?!? I though attributes had higher priority when it came to formatting?

  18. 4th Dimension says:

    Ummm, replied to the post instead of a comment.
    Anyway, I like the new formatting of the comments where the replies visibly stick out on the right.

    Now that I’m editing my comment the edit comment box is screwed a bit. It’s about 60% of the post width and the buttons have no padding or margins so they are squished right along each other.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,now that youve shrunk the comments column,could you do something to the background so that we dont have just blank space on the right?

  20. Zekiel says:

    I feel your pain Past-Shamus. I had to do the same job (though probably not quite as bad) about 12 years ago. Whatever spam-stopping tools we had back then still weren’t good enough to filter out a lot of stuff that I really didn’t want to see. And it made me grumpy too.

  21. Deoxy says:

    The thing I really hated was the 2-4 years in the early 2000s where 10% of the spam was sexual-body-part enlargement (his and hers varieties), and the other 90% of was this weird, image-less, url-less text description of various incestuous combinations. I never could figure out what the point was, as there was no url or any other way for you to even figure out where to go if you wanted their “product”, but they just WOULD. NOT. QUIT. (OK, they finally did, or the filters got better, but it took a couple of years.)

    That was awful. It was just text, so you didn’t realize what it was until you read it. *hork*

  22. Sunshine says:

    I get that as you get older you're supposed to start looking back at the “good old days”, but it hasn't happened to me yet. The past sucks. The future is excellent. I hope I get to live in it for a long time.

    I like this ending! Hooray for the future! I hope!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Once in a while you'll get a picture of a girl's face. This might sound nice, but these are not happy playful models. The girls are dead-eyed and sullen, or wearing awful forced smiles. And even if a healthy, pretty face makes it through, doesn't get cropped, and survives the compression process, it doesn't help because her face is re-contextualized by the other images. It's like if you take a portrait of a normal, healthy, genial guy and mix it in with a bunch of Charles Manson-looking serial killers. He doesn't brighten up the lineup. Instead, his smile takes on a sinister quality.

    Since most images are faceless, I'm left with the impression that everyone in these pictures is just as miserable as the unhappy looking ones. All of the images take on an insidious, desperate quality, like Polaroids sent by kidnappers.

    I don't want to see this stuff. It's not sexy. I don't know a lot about sex, but I'm willing to make a guess that a majority of people ““ even a majority of young guys ““ don't find this arousing. It's actually kind of depressing and disturbing. This is probably what it feels like to have someone expose themselves to you in public. It feels like it shouldn't be a big deal, but it actually leaves you feeling kind of gross and you're not sure why.

    It’s actually super comforting that a guy noticed that. Buddy? <3

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