Long Shots and Long Lists

Open_Lab_2009_publishedHuh. I’ve just been informed by someone codenamed “SciCurious” that my Climategate posting has been chosen as one of the “50 Best Science Blogging Posts of the Year” by an elite cabal of judges running something known as the Open Laboratory! Competition. (I do not know the purpose of the exclamation point. If it is a typo, it did not start with me.) Evidently these Top-50 are anthologised in dead-tree format for posterity, which is pretty cool.

Just to be clear: we’re talking about that rant in which I claimed that science depends at least partially on the pettiness and vindictiveness of scientists, and in which I proclaimed my fond desire to see the Pope immersed in nitric acid. One of the best science posts of the year, tube-wide.

I don’t understand it. I write about space vampires. I haven’t published a peer-reviewed technical paper in more than a decade. And yet, these troublesome vestiges of credibility continue to haunt me.

It is, of course, an honor (albeit an unexpected one; whoever put me up for this, thanks). And looking down the list of other finalists, I see that “Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World” is in august company indeed. I’m rubbing elbows with posts like “Brain and behavior of dinosaurs” and “The Cuttlefish Genome Project”; Wired‘s piece on sleep paralysis, and Cognitive Daily‘s “Does faking amnesia permanently distort your memory?”; reportage on cytokine storms, genital mimicry, and protowhale fossils; and of course, Southern Fried Science‘s immortal “Blood and brains — can vampires survive a zombie apocalypse?” That last title alone is worth the price of admission.

But wait! There’s more! The list of noms for the British Science Fiction Association’s “Best Short Story” nod is almost as long, and presumably still growing (the nomination period ends January 16), and “The Island” seems to be on it. This also was completely unexpected; I didn’t realize that non-UK publications were even eligible. But there I am, buried in amongst 37 other contenders. Obviously my odds are long; but given that I didn’t even think myself eligible, I’ve already got farther than I was expecting. I ain’t complaining.

Now how much would you pay? Don’t answer yet, because…

Oh, wait. Yeah, go ahead and answer. This third thing doesn’t cut nearly the profile I thought it did. I got all excited when informed that the ‘crawl had also been nominated for some shiny-new juried Canadian weblog award in the “Arts & Culture” category, but looking closer I see that the nomination period has just begun and extends until December. So my name on this site doesn’t mean that I’ve made any kind of cut or passed any particular muster. It just means that one person put my name forward (thanks to you as well, whoever you are) in one of thirty-plus categories. It also means that the list will probably have a couple thousand names on it by the time the nomination window closes.  So, never mind.

But while I have your attention, I’d like to wind up today’s news cycle by putting a Squidgate-related question out there. I’ve been getting an unusual amount of traffic hailing from my Wikipedia page (which is to say, someone went there) — so I dropped by and noticed there’s been some back-and-forth editing over the whole “Border Detention” subsection. That whole subsection has a pretty low signal:noise ratio, but one line in particular jumped out at me:

“Watts was reported to have been verbally abusive towards the US CBP Officers prior to choking one of the Officers.”

The line doesn’t surprise me — the claim’s bullshit, of course, but I’ve no doubt that it was “reported” somewhere. Still, the source of that claim isn’t cited, and having seen the police reports I know it didn’t come from there. I’d almost wonder whether one of the guards might have a literate friend willing to spread such chaff as a favor, but they’d have to be pretty dumb to contradict testimony already on the record. So, does anyone know where that particular “verbal abuse” gem came from? Newspaper story? Blog?

Divine Revelation?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 at 8:08 am and is filed under Squidgate, writing news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

29 Responses to “Long Shots and Long Lists”

  1. Chris in NY

    (See link… costumes for a Star Trek / Rifters crossover?).

    So, a pre-trial meeting? IANAL, but here’s some advice. Do not accept any constraints on your future travel. Do not let anyone delay the trial.

    And, yes, I’ve seen the bullshit quote somewhere. Having read damn near everything on the web regarding the case, I cannot be sure exactly where, but I’ll find it and post it here later today. I think it was one of the Port Huron stories.

    I also found it on Wikipedia (with the additional, “…after refusing a lawful command” but I took care of that part since it was not in the referenced article).

  2. XiXiDu
  3. XiXiDu

    Whoops…never mind! I knew who it is but I’ve ignored that blog post it seems. And haven’t clicked the link here either.

    Anyway, congrats! It’s truly one of the must-read posts of the year.

  4. Nick Nimchuk

    Screw awards. You haven’t really made it until you’ve been the subject of Wikipedia edit-war. Congrats for that (and the rest, I suppose)!

  5. Chris in NY
  6. Chris in NY

    Sorry for being spammy and posting three times, but this might help the confusion. Note that whoever is at IP address:


    apparently has a hard-on for Dr. Watts (and not at all in a good way):


  7. seruko

    Other than gentle loving and surprise sex, in Texas no less. I am shocked sir, SHOCKED. Some authoritarian loving, everything the police do is right folks in Texas.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with that.

    I’ve got two guesses, the meme either came from deciding misrepresentation here -> https://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=932
    or from watching doves be released by the priests of Jove.

  8. Chris in NY

    Argh… wrong IP address. This is what I get for trying to work and read at the same time (boss’ PC was hacked by worms/trojans/virii yesterday).

    It was actually someone in CANDADA (sorry, Texas… for this anyway).


    (See link for one of many reverse IP lookup website).

    It was earlier in the conversation. Now that I re-read the referenced articles, there is no mention of “verbally” nor “abusive” in either referenced article. Think it’s time for more editing.

    (On a personal note, you know, I have nearly unlimited energy. It’s incredible. I could do this forever. 40s are far cooler than I expected).

  9. sherlock

    Gives: Latitude: 43.6667 Longitude: -79.4167
    Gives this address:

    765 Manning Ave
    Toronto, ON, Canada

    They even have a streetview picture.

  10. keanani

    @ Chris in NY: “Sorry for being spammy and posting three times…”

    No worries Chris! I am certain I got you beat on that, with beaucoup wall of words tendencies… 🙂

    Besides we over here on this isolated island archipelago just looove our spam…only Guam has us beat as the mostest canned spam eaters…

    @Nick Nimchuk: To heck with wikipedia, besides taking the Hawaiian word for “quick”, which actually should be “wiki wiki”, the editing and many typing fingers ensures that the truth is not really out there on that website, and is really about what the person with power wants to put there…I hope people do not take wikipedia as the gosh darn gospel.

    @Peter: “…my Climategate posting has been chosen as one of the “50 Best Science Blogging Posts of the Year”…”

    Not surprised. Your while blog is excellent, and it shows in your writing – thought provoking and no wimping out on discussing the stuff…

  11. keanani

    Oh great, I can’t trust my spell check –not “while”- I meant to say “whole”. As in “whole blog”. Sorry!

    @Chris – Hmm, Texas, it is not, but why not? Well, it is right in Peter’s back yard this person who ” apparently has a hard-on for Dr. Watts…”
    Could be xx or xy…

    On a lighter note:

    Chemical computer that mimics neurons to be created

  12. Greyjoy

    Dammit guys, if you’re going to accuse Texas of a heinous crime, at least make sure it’s one we’ve committed. Like frequent homophobia, Mexican serfdom, cowboy hats, and El Paso.

  13. Hljóðlegur

    Greyjoy says if you’re going to accuse Texas of a heinous crime, at least make sure it’s one we’ve committed.

    My friend, you left out leaning out your car windah, waving your ballcap in the air and hollering, “YeeHAW!!!” several times. I personally witnessed that one, and participated in such a Yeehaw ritual whilst riding around the Sam Houston memorial in a pick-up truck.

    How is Texas on verbal abuse and choking? I ask because sherlock has pointed out a fellow at 765 Manning Ave who would clearly love too be choked by Watts, but who has the time? Really, who has the time? Now that Peter’s a World-Famous Choker, he can’t go around just choking every Tom, Dick and cowboy who needs a good throttling.

    I’d offer the DC area, but we are really only good for a bitch slap around here, and if you want a good choking, it’d be disappointing, I feel.

    keanani says
    Could be xx or xy…

    Any relation to JMG8, I wonder? That person is definitely male.

  14. Branko Collin

    Tex as Tex does.

  15. keanani

    For some reason that phrase seemed familiar to me, now, and I remembered a web-article:

    Dr. Peter Watts, Canadian SF writer, beaten and arrested at Canadian border – December 11, 2009
    By Chris Meadows

    “Arv Says:
    January 8th, 2010 at 7:22 pm
    In December of 2009, Watts was detained at the US/Canadian border by American border guards performing a random search of the vehicle as he was attempting to re-enter Canada after visiting friends. Watts is alleged to have assaulted a Customs Officer after refusing a direction to return to his vehicle. Watts was reported to have been verbally abusive towards the US CBP Officers prior to choking one of the Officers.”

    Well, Arv spoke of this on January 8th, 2010, but then maybe he just wiki’d and took it from there…

  16. Branko Collin

    Did I miss something? The only contribution of the entity behind 76.68.etc is copying one of Peter’s Squid Gate postings to the Wikipedia article.

    The “Watts was repoted” line was a heavy modification of an earlier, short line in which life was still pretty much without repote.

    Now also hails from Canada, from Surrey, British Columbia to be precise.

  17. Chris in NY

    Thanks for the correction, Branko. Guess my wiki-fu is not what it could be.

  18. Hljóðlegur

    I went and read some of the blog postings selected for “50 Best Science Blogging Posts of the Year” –


    Very entertaining and informative. Well worth a gander, folks, if you have a few minutes. Work this morning was made more bearable by finding out freakish facts about hyena reproduction, for instance.

  19. Dominick Grace

    The earliest instance of the specific phrase “verbally abusive” (without reference to choking, however) I’m aware of is in this blog entry from December 12:


    No source for the claim cited, though, beyond a vague reference to “the ICE version”

  20. Chris in NY

    Ah, professional jealousy (or perhaps because Dr. Watts is not a Journey fan) raises it’s ugly, malformed head.

    Actually, he* sounds like a perfectly normal he-said/he-said sceptic who seems to lean slightly toward the CBG. He even brings up the video as being what he’d like to see.

    So say we all.

    (* He has two CardiganWCs (not Pembrokes) and likes cats, so he can’t be all bad.)

  21. sherlock

    (cf. my post above)
    I just did it as a lark really. (And to give those defamers a scare.)
    With a bit more luck you can use the street address in a reverse lookup with a telephone directory to find phone numbers and names. Amazing what you can find using (what are now) basic tools on the internet these days.

    But the same ip address can be used by different people at different times, the only way to be really sure is to ask the ISP: who was using a certain ip address at what time.

  22. Branko Collin

    genital mimicry

    I once observed phantom genital mimicry in humans. A pre-school girl, growing up among only older brothers, was scratching her crotch and said, in a sailors-amongst-themselves tone of voice, “ooh, my balls are itching.”

    And now a case of project phantom genital mimicry springs to mind: Kelly Bundy coming home, sitting down on the couch, putting her right hand in her waistband, and saying: “so, this fat woman came into the store today…” (And still she got cat-calls. The male human specimen is not that stupid.)

  23. Chris in NY

    Seen this?

    Port Huron Times Herald (last item):

    Border officials deny arrest video request

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection denied a request from the Times Herald for a video of a recent arrest on the Blue Water Bridge. The freedom of information request, which sought a video of the arrest of Canadian Peter Watts, was denied because it is an ongoing investigation, a letter from the department said. Watts is charged with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest after a December incident while crossing the bridge into Canada.

  24. Chris in NY

    And now, for something completely different, a recent discovery… the internet is made of cats!


  25. Hljóðlegur

    Chris in NY: Border officials deny arrest video request

    GeeeZUZ, I wish this thing was over and done with. Is it April yet??

    Because I like associating Peter with interesting hard-to-read articles on obscure science crap, neuroanatomy, philosophy of mind, etc., nice abstract stuff that does not make me think about authority figures in uniforms who are itching to mace me and beat me. I hate that what zips into my head in re Peter now is fear and cringing and court and anxiety – limbic reality. I miss soothing abstraction.

    Thankfully, a bright spot appeared when I finally plumbed the 400+ boingboing posting and comments on the topic. Apparently, our Mr. Watts is seven feet tall. (comment #192)

    AHAHAHAHHAAAAAAAAAAAaaa. ah, yeah. Didn’t know fame made you taller, did ya? It’s like black slacks make you thinner?

  26. Waterloonie

    Hljóðlegur, I believe that comment is by Nalo Hopkinson, who I’m fairly sure has met Peter in person. Now granted, she isn’t all that tall herself so it might be a perception issue, but Peter is, undeniably, quite tall.

    (says the 5’9″ guy)

  27. Peter Watts

    Nalo’s a buddy of mine — in fact, we used to be in the same writing group.

  28. Hljóðlegur


    I wasn’t doubting that Nalo had met Peter, no, not at all. I was enjoying how when people admire men, they make them taller, and was enjoying very very much that the lady in question admired him up to the improbable height of 213 cm. I’ve personally stood next to exactly one man who topped 213 cm in my life, exactly one, so I know both how improbable that is, and how amazing that is experientially, so I was loving the image.


    I have no doubt that, no matter your actual physical height, you stand head and shoulders above the crowd. Also, I do understand, as a short someone from a tall family, that men who literally stand 190 cm+ get certain privileges, but that they pay dearly for them.

    Nalo’s remark put me in mind of a description by a fan of the harmonica player John Popper, a stout musician who really does stand about 6’4″. The awed fan got a backstage pass and was drinking a beer and talking when Popper came up behind him. He reports that he felt him behind him before he turned around. You felt him? Yeah, he says, he “kind of blotted out the Sun.” I love the image, because it was lyrical, but also sincerely admiring – he felt so strongly about him, that he remembered Popper as an astronomical phenomenon, like the shadow of the Moon.

    In the same vein, how cool to be remembered as being 7 feet tall. It’s like having someone remember you as Paul Bunyon.

  29. Leona

    @Hljóðlegur : “re pay dearly” – really? super intrigued. No need to elucidate on here, but intrigued…