Damascus, Syria Where’s the TP and what’s this hose for?

Flew out from Dubai this morning with a perfect view of the unreal Palm islands. Stealing someone else's photo off the web…


Literally, they are unreal, if the term can include that which is entirely man-made.

Looking down on it, one's visual cues for proportion are thrown out of whack. Is that a pedestrian walkway or a 4-lane highway? That can't be a cruise ship, can it?

Then, through the sandy haze, an even larger sibling comes into view. The outline is the same, but it's only bare sand with minimal construction. All progress looks to be stalled, as if someone woke up one morning and said "Wait a minute, stop everything. This is completely idiotic."


Or, more likely, someone finally maxed out a very big credit card.

I'm in Damascus now, killing time until sundown in a somnambulant state with the faint hope of bouncing back quickly to the 11 hour jump.

I have nothing interesting to say about Damascus yet other than; I like it a whole lot more than Dubai.

Here's one thing I have in common with the Arab world: we both appreciate a nice glass of fresh-squeezed, pulpy-as-a-paper-shredder orange juice.

In case you haven't noticed, my site got a Brazilian wax. Thanks to Joel at Yellow Button for getting into those hard-to-reach places.

The Videos page is redone, with lots of material that's accumulated over the years finally collected in one place.

The Maps page is now actually, actually, seriously, for-real working, with all new maps for 2009 and 2010 for anyone who gives a crap.

The Front Page has been sorted out, with the most important addition being a link to the new Signup page. We took it down just before finishing the 2008 video, and now it's finally up and running again. So if you want to dance in the new video and you've never emailed me before, you might want to hop over there and let me know where you live.

I welcome any feedback, of course.

I gave a talk about a recent obsession of mine at the Ignite event in Seattle last month. The talk is called: "The Imaginary Line of Ancient Cosmic Weirdness." If you get nothing else from it, you may learn a new vocab word; apophenia, which you can use to impress atheists.

I'd like to embed said video, but Syria seems to block all access to YouTube (not to mention Facebook, PayPal, a weirdly hobbled Wikipedia, and who knows what else). The best I can do for now is a link to this page, which I suspect has the video on it, but all I can see right now is an empty white rectangle.

Boy, that last post kicked up an unexpected kerfuffle about Fox News. In hindsight, I should know better.

As a policy, I try to stay mute about site comments, especially those of a cringe-worthy and trollish nature. There's certainly no point in arguing or correcting, and the hope of actually reconciling my views with anyone else's runs against the very fundamental nature of this sort of thing. Talkbacks are not a place where opinions converge.

It's just that, well, seeing the term "close-minded" used repeatedly to describe my aversion to Fox News…How? Words. Broken. Make mean opposite. Must not…give in…

Look, I'll just say this, with regards to the notion that I could've broadened anyone's horizons in a three minute talk show segment: that is not what talk shows do. I've been on a bunch and it doesn't really matter if there's a left slant or a right slant or if everything's in perfect, sterile equilibrium. Their job is not to broaden or inform. In fact, they try to avoid it. Most talk shows are about pushing product.

Most, I said.

There are times when I have a reason to do those things, and every once in a while they can actually be fun. But these days I've got nothing to sell except my book — and in financial terms that's akin to promoting a lemonade stand — so I enjoy being my own master. And one of my favorite ways to exercise that mastery is telling the television people to go away when I feel like it.

Okay, sleep is coming. Tonight I am in a dorm room with a Kiwi and a Turk, both female. Speaking of which, at the airport just now, a lady bathroom attendant insisted on watching my luggage while I reacquainted myself with squat toilets. I'm about to give up on second guessing Islamic gender conservatism.