I have learned a lot from the comments at WUWT, concerning the post about Codfish that appeared below. On WUWT it appeared as

As new posts appeared at the top of the WUWT page, my post gradually was nudged down the page, until it finally vanished off the bottom of the page, and entered the world of the archives.  Usually there are fewer and fewer comments as a post moves down the page, and the comments cease once you are no longer seen on the front page of WUWT.  However, in this case, much to my amazement, the comments continued coming right to the moment my post reached the bottom of the WUWT front page, when they stood at around 165, and then, even more to my amazement, comments continued even after the post “disappeared,” and now stand at 185.

I think a lot was due to having Willis Eschenbach joining the conversation.  An interesting sidetrack later developed wherein the conversation had little to do with Codfish, and a lot to do with good manners and how to debate on the Internet.  In fact it was so interesting that I think I will clip parts of the sidetrack and paste them here, as a separate post.

It is probably best if you go to the actual comments and decide for yourself what actually happened.  I confess to being a bit bewildered, as it happened.  Of course, it may get a bit tedious to read all 185 comments, which is why I’m trying to summarize.

With twenty-twenty hindsight, I now think the commenter “Latitude,” who often shares insights at WUWT, had a light bulb go off in his head as he studied a NOAA pamphlet, and wanted to share the brilliance of the experience.  However others had that same light bulb go off in their own heads at far earlier date, and therefore for others the insight was old news and not as brilliant as it was for Latitude, which gave Latitude the impression they were not “getting it.”  So he’d stress the brilliance again, and others would again say, “yawn,” which convinced Latitude they were stupid not to see the brilliance.  (Rinse and repeat.) Codfish were forgotten, and the issue became whether Latitude was boring or other people, (in particular Willis,) were stupid.

I suppose the lesson is that just because an idea is a blinding revelation for one person doesn’t mean it is necessarily a revelation for others, the same idea may be old and dull for others.  It doesn’t mean either view is wrong; they are simply different.

As we were wasting time on this sidetrack, attempting to determine whether Latitude was boring or Willis was stupid, the commenter, ”James Sexton,” wasn’t helpful.  Rather than helping us get back to the subject of Codfish, he took sides, defending Latitude and pouncing on Willis, escalating the wasting of time. (I should mention James runs a site of his own, which seems like a fairly interesting site.)  He might be a fine fellow, for all I know, but the way he got sucked into our fray wasn’t helping us get back to discussing Codfish.

Matters seemed to be getting worse, to me, and I went for a long walk to think about what in the world was happening.  For some reason, as I walked, the memory of an old friend from my teenaged years, who we nicknamed “Pest,” came drifting through my mind and made me smile.  As my humor improved, I decided that, if people wanted to talk about something that had next to nothing to do with Codfish, I could do that.

By the time I got back to my computer things had reached the following level, and it looked like the thread was going to end in a sad and unfriendly note, so I as I read the following comment by James a comment of my own (which follows) was already forming in my skull:

  1. James Sexton says:

June 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
June 16, 2013 at 2:28 am
I said I didn’t know what “Me” was saying. I didn’t comment on your knowledge at all…….
Willis Eschenbach says:
June 15, 2013 at 4:39 pm
….. James, the problem is that neither you nor I know what demeanor the anonymous poster was implying, because he didn’t quote,………
Apparently, Willis, quoting you has no relevence to your responses. Willis, you’re still hilarious. While I’d love to continue this wonderful dialogue, I find impossible to adequatly exchange thoughts and ideas with people who reject and deny what they’ve written in their prior comments.

How is it you expect people to adequately respond to you, and your criticizing them for not quoting you, but, when you are quoted you deny writing such things?

Take your meds. Krool? Naw, boorish, is more like it. Willis, I’m sorry I upset you. It was an effort to increase your ability to engage with other people who may communicate differently than you do. And, to get you to focus on relevent things in a discussion instead of obsessing on the minutia and harmless observations towards your demeanor. I see I’ve utterly failed in that effort.

I do get a little defensive of people when I see needless responses. If you didn’t know what he was referring to when he mentioned the “97%” you could have just asked as opposed to writing a rant. But, I don’t believe you’re that dense. Alternatively, if you did understand the reference, you could have either accepted the criticism and moved on, or ignored it.

I’ve neither the time nor the inclination to resond to demands from a fellow who will simply wave off what he stated prior when I do respond, as your most recent comment just did. Again, this thread has devolved into limited utility. I’ll let you have the last rant. I’m already tired of responding to your insanity.

Best wishes,


  1. Caleb says:

June 16, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Well, I can’t let things end on such a sour note.

I had no idea idea that “Me” had any sort of history oF harassing Willis. Now that I do, I think his last name may be Squeeter.

The problem with mosquitoes is that it doesn’t do much good to reason with them.

When I was a teenager a member of my gang had the nickname, “Pest.” He was a really good guy around 95% of the time, but 5% of the time I don’t know what the devil got into him, but it earned him his nickname.

For example, you might be out hiking on a beautiful day, with everything lovely, and he would pluck a long stem of grass. The stem was the sort that, rather than having a seed-head like wheat, had a seed head sort of like a round, green, fuzzy Caterpillar. In a most innocent manner Pest would stick it in your hair and twirl it left and right. It took him all of three seconds, but snarled itself so hideously into your hair it took around five minutes to pick it to pieces and remove it. It took me longer, because I was always in a rush in those days and had to do it while walking. Sometimes even before I had the first stem removed he’d innocently pluck another…

I tried to reason with Pest, but it was absolutely no use. He might nod, but even as he nodded he’d mischievously pick another stem. The ability to annoy the heck out of everyone (because guys had long hair in those days,) gave him a odd power: Merely by plucking and waving a stem of grass he could have everyone flinching and backing away, avoiding him as if it was a gun. Also he found it funny. Every time he annoyed someone he’d laugh until tears came out of his eyes, and we discovered it is hard to give someone a thump, if they are rolling around helpless with laughter.

Some of the other guys just got fed up, lost it, and gave him a thump anyway, but I pretty much decided Pest was just put together in an annoying way by God, and I resigned myself to the fact Pest would always be a pest. As soon as I did that, I was much less fun to torment, and he took to pestering others more than he pestered me.

That taught me a sort of lesson about respecting people for what they are, even if they are a pest.

I tend to be respectful, even when I get only half as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield in return. (I suppose it is due to having a small gang of older siblings. They tended to demand respect without being very respectful about it.) This actually prepared me for life, because if I cared a hoot for respect I never would have been able to go the places I’ve gone, because I often had to sleep in my car and take bottom-rung jobs, like cleaning toilets.

Sometimes too much self-respect can keep one at home, living with mother, because one fears it might be beneath them to clean toilets. However not enough self-respect, and people think they can exploit you and walk all over you. When things got that bad I tended to simply depart, and move on to the next situation. I wasn’t disrespectful to my former boss; I just politely bid him adieu. None of the “respectful” things, such as promotions, raises, pensions, insurance plans, had any hold on me. For that reason I’ve done things and been places in my life that respectable people haven’t dared do or go. Where they stayed stuck, I bummed my way onward.

If fate had wished it, I might have bummed my way out onto a Santa Cruz wharf and set sail on the same ship as Willis back in the 1980′s. (Stranger coincidences have happened.) However where I would likely have shipped out as Bilge Scrubber Second Class, he likely would have been the guy organizing the escapade. As such, he commands more respect. It is simply the way things work in real life, and it is especially so at sea, for otherwise things get very rotten very fast, and you either ram a reef or have a mutiny on your hands.

The blogosphere is a strange ship to sail upon, because the rules of who respects who are not very clear. I would like to think we would stick to the subject of “increasing the population of codfish,” but, as we have seen, something new and interesting appears. We get off track, and enter the world of how egos respect, or don’t-respect, other egos.

As I said earlier, I don’t need much respect. Getting my writing published by Anthony was honor enough, and I rather enjoyed the ensuing uproar. People can call me all sorts of bad things, and it is like water off a duck’s back. Mostly i placate, however at times I may gently needle right back, to keep a discussion progressing. And I confess the original essay was full of needles, to get things started.

In a manner of speaking I am ship-builder, boat-owner and captain of this thread, (Anthony owns the sea,) and if things get out of hand very fast and we ram a reef or have a mutiny on our hands, I am at least partly to blame.

Well, things did get a bit out of hand. I spent a lot of time scratching my head like a captain on his first voyage, wondering how on earth to get the crew to quit brawling and back to work. I was glad to have Willis aboard, for he actually has been a captain, and when he roared I could study how an experienced captain roars.

Latitude, “ME,” and James Sexton were like three shipmates who likely should have never boarded this ship, though at least Latitude scrubbed a deck or two by making two points that added to the discussion.(IE: “stock” is not the same as “catch”, and “coastal” stocks “might” have been depleted by the damming of rivers reducing stocks of migratory fish that codfish eat, peaking 150 years ago in 1870.)

Two points, among a great many other good points, but Latitude seemed to think he deserved a hundred spotlights for his two points, and everyone else deserved shadow. He made his points over and over and over, and called everyone deaf for not hearing him, when he had been heard. The simple fact is that his points don’t solve the problem, and people said so. He doesn’t deserve a hundred spotlights, and people said so.

However in charges James Sexton, defender of the oppressed, to save Latitude from….the other points people are making? To defend Latitude from the fact his two points are not even close to being central, and are actually at the periphery of the issue? I’m not sure, but I do see James didn’t bring any new points, (except to guess, “winds and tides probably are not important to what Latitude is saying,”) and instead said some very offensive things about others who confronted Latitude. I don’t see what telling Willis to take meds, or calling Willis senile, adds to a discussion of Codfish. All in all, James Sexton never scrubbed a deck for us, but did contribute to a mutiny.

Lastly we have “Me,” who never dared step aboard, and merely yelled something from shore which had nothing to do with what was being discussed.

All in all, these three took up a lot of space and time, and all we got out of it was two rather inconsequential points. I will remember them, if I captain another voyage

RE: Jon. Thank you for clarifying how cod can breed at depth, and the eggs then float up to the surface. In twenty-five words you added more to the discussion than others did with thousands.

(from here on my comment is simply seeking to get the comments back to the subject of codfish.)

RE: eyesonu Though you jest, a harvest of seals could suppy food, oil, and fur. It would be stupid to just slaughter them. 100,000 seals can have up to 50,000 pups a year, while living 20 years. The New England harvest could be sizable, and “sustainable.” Guys who hate working ashore could have jobs at sea, or at least on the shore.

RE: Some commented earlier on the history of the three-mile-limit. Although I mentioned the 1950′s, I am well aware it went on far longer. When I looked out to sea, up in Maine in the 1970′s, there was so much light out to sea it was like there was a city out there. The reason I blame Russia, (though there were others,) is because besides sending a fleet, they sent a floating factory. The politics surrounding the madness of allowing them to sail so close and over-fish so badly could be the subject for another post. Like Global warming, it is proof politicians are capable of the most dunderheaded deeds.

RE: Some people commented earlier about my brief mention, in the original essay, about people who sailed to our shores for the cod, (and one mentioned walrus,) long before the Pilgrims. I’d love to launch off on all the various views and versions and lore surrounding that subject, but that should wait until another post. The topic I was focused on this post was how to get the codfish population back up to former levels.

I think the conclusion is that the protection of the sea bottom ought receive much more attention than it does.

More study of the ecology of the fish that breed at sea is needed.

I still think the idea of floating hatcheries that release very young cod ought be explored. However if turns out to be as impractical as wind turbines, dump my idea altogether. I’d hate to be remembered for causing there to be as many useless floating hatcheries as there are useless wind turbines.

  1. Willis Eschenbach says:

June 16, 2013 at 11:02 pm

(An interesting comment, which I’m deleting, as it actually does have to do with Codfish and was on track, which means it isn’t on track pertaining the current discussion.)

  1. Willis Eschenbach says:

June 16, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Caleb says:
June 16, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Well, I can’t let things end on such a sour note.

My thanks to you, Caleb, for your level-headed take on all of this. It’s true that I get impassioned about these matters, and that may not be the best response. You advise that with “Pest” when you stopped responding to his tormenting you, he stopped trying to torment you.

My problem with that is that it doesn’t seem to work on the web. They don’t get discouraged. Instead, the lack of response encourages them to multiply and support each other. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s that they get to see their immortal prose up there on the silver screen, or they just want to tear down because they can’t build, but whatever the reason, my experience is that ignoring them doesn’t work.

I hold this opinion because I’ve been dealing with the issue of people coming in to my threads and making mud-slinging personal attacks for some years now. The only thing I’ve found to work is to step on them like the cockaroaches that they are. I have no tolerance for unfounded, uncited, unreferenced personal accusations, and I’m happy to make that clear to those that come crawling around here making such accusations.

I’m more than happy for someone to show I’m wrong. No, not more than happy, that’s not right, no one is happy to be wrong. But I know that that’s my only hope. I know that’s the path of scientific and personal progress. If people don’t tell me when I’m going off the rails, I may not notice until it’s too late, or perhaps never.

But vague assertions, like that I’m a “denier” or that I’m “like the 97%”, without a scrap of information about what I did or said that has so upset them, are something I won’t put up with. I will not allow a man to libel me in that manner and make no response. I’ve tried it, and if I say nothing, on the web these anonymous folks are only encouraged to post another nasty remark.

I think part of the reason the web is different from your experience with “Pest” is that on the web, there’s always jerkwagon number two. When some charming and usually anonymous fellow makes some unpleasant and untrue statement about me, if I say nothing, you can bet that JW#2 will notice that lack of response, and they’ll jump up and say “Yeah, Me, you’re right, and besides Willis never acknowledges his sources” or some vague libel like that, again without anything to back it up. Then I’m fighting two lies.

Someone actually said that on a thread the other day, claiming that I was plagiarizing ideas without attribution.

I can’t let that kind of lie remain unopposed and unfalsified. I called them out. I said if you can find anywhere I’ve done that, give me chapter and verse of where I’ve done it, and I’ll set it right immediately.

I didn’t hear another damn word on the subject, and the lurkers found out the truth about my accuser. It was just another attempt to attack my honesty rather than deal with my scientific claims.

So I swat people like that. I don’t want them around. I don’t care if I insult them. I hope they take their ball and go home.

I’ve found no other way to get rid of such charming folks, but if you have one, I’m all ears …

And again, my thanks for riding herd on a most interesting thread. Like a garden, a post and the resulting thread of comments require cultivation and weeding, and you’ve done a good job of it … even including how much harder I made your job.

Well done,


And that was the end of our side track into topics that have nothing to do with codfish.


After the above comments something wonderful happened, which doesn’t always happen when you get off onto a sidetrack, especially when it involves any sort of quarreling. The wonderful thing was we actually managed to return to the subject of Codfish, and get back on track.

However the entire episode shows something interesting is occurring in the blogosphere.  While Robert’s Rules Of Order hasn’t yet been written for the web, perhaps we are on our way to developing a Civil Procedure.


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