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Actual Books

Who Hates Whom
Who Hates Whom:

Well-Armed Fanatics,
Intractable Conflicts,

and Various Things Blowing Up
A Woefully Incomplete Guide™

“Revelatory... Harris's sly wit and infectious curiosity make understanding world chaos fascinating... witty, horrific, and necessary.”

-- Boston Globe

"Brave... irreverent... charges into the thick of the globe's myriad simmering wars... hilariously relaxed."

-- New York Observer

“Fascinating, enlightening, and surprisingly: NOT TOTALLY DEPRESSING.”

-- John Hodgman,
author, The Areas of My Expertise and correspondent for The Daily Show


"A rollicking ride of intellectual discovery and emotional growth... his comic timing never fails"
-- The Wall Street Journal

"A surprisingly touching memoir"
-- Entertainment Weekly

"Effortlessly funny and informative... tender, human, and very wise... A must for anyone who loves Jeopardy!, or has ever seen it, or is breathing."
-- Joss Whedon, creator, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

You Tube Clips

CBS Morning Show profile

Who Hates Whom

Prisoner of Trebekistan




Helping my friend Howard win $250,000 on Millionaire

Page Rank

Beyond Caprica: My New DK Sci-Fi Travel Guide PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 July 2010 07:58
I just found out a few weeks ago that I'm about to have a new book-type thingy published.
Beyond Caprica -- a travel guide to the BSG colonies of Kobol

Last year, my dear friend Jane was running Caprica (the Battlestar Galactica prequel), and on the strength of my real-world travel writing and the country summaries in Who Hates Whom, she thought I'd be a good choice to devise backstories for the show's planets (the "colonies of Kobol"), amplifying the existing tangential references in the original BSG into fuller political histories, giving Caprica's writers an internal bible for consistency.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance -- this was like being a Star Trek fan in 1968 and being asked to write the show's history of the Romulans for use in future episodes.

I didn't figure this would be published, but whoa -- turns out NBC/Universal has edited my memo to fit the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide format, licensed the resulting pamphlet with DK, and published a limited run as if it's a real full-color DK travel guide to be released in a limited run at the San Diego Comic Con -- but it's also on sale at the NBC store.

I don't think this will ever be in stores, so if the show becomes a cult like BSG, it could become a collector's item.

My Keynote Talk on the Web, Global Culture, and Monumental Screw-ups - Now on YouTube PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 05 March 2010 20:03
Update: welcome to everyone popping over from my Peru travelogue on BoingBoing.net today.  I think you'll particularly dig the videos.

Oh -- and if you imagine your group would want me to come by and speak, here's who
you want to call.

Last year I was asked by Web Directions North, a gathering of assorted bigshots from Google, Yahoo!, etc. -- people who literally convene to design the next phases of the Internet itself -- to deliver the closing keynote.  The subject?  The future of the Internet's influence on global culture and politics.

Naturally, my take on it was illustrated with people dancing in the streets, teenage males being given fake boobs, and coffee made from civet poop.  

I'm happy to tell you it got a long standing ovation.

And now you can see the whole talk online here.

It's broken into bite-size pieces, organized loosely by the point I'm making, each about the length of a pop song.

The first chunk is below. If you dig it, click to the YouTube page with the whole shebang.

Thanks again to PAAC PDF Print E-mail
Kiva and Microfinance
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 02:06
Quick note of appreciation to the good folks at the Pacific Asian Affairs Council, who brought me out to Honolulu, set me up at the University of Hawaii, and arranged for me to keynote their summit on microfinance.

I had a total blast and met a ton of cool people.  And seeing so many young people get excited about a sense of connection with the developing world, and the ability to touch lives halfway across the globe -- that gave me a huge boost of enthusiasm for my own work.  So I definitely received at least as good as I gave.

Thanks to everyone at PAAC.  Hope to see a bunch of you in Vietnam next!
The Bones episode what I done writ PDF Print E-mail
Stuff I like
Saturday, 06 February 2010 15:33

In case you missed it, I was asked to write a Bones episode this year, it aired a couple of weeks ago... and here it is, available for streaming at the network's website.

Incidentally, even though it says "Written by" and then my name in the credits, stuff like this is always a massively shared enterprise, so credit belongs in huge part with the entire writing and producing staff.

Very cool and fun bunch of people. And I'm happy to report it was their highest-rated episode since 2008!

Great experience, this was. Thanks to everyone involved!

Site updates - software tweaks - all good stuff PDF Print E-mail
Site updates
Wednesday, 20 January 2010 03:57
Webmaster Colin has updated our software, one benefit of which is that my Twitter feed can now appear in the right-hand column.  If everything works (including me), there should be photos, links, and all sorts of goodness over there.  Longer posts will still go in this space.

Another effect of the changes: the addresses of many articles here have changed, so inbound links from other sites may be broken.  If you've wound up here on the main page by accident, that's why the search box is now near the top of the page.

You may also find some odd formatting and such while we clean up the loose ends, but things mostly seem to be working out great.  And if the page is displaying at a funky width, there are little white icons at the far upper right for twiddling with that.

My new New York Times puzzle is up PDF Print E-mail
Stuff I like
Saturday, 05 September 2009 22:43

Circular Reasoning, a new puzzle I designed and wrote for the op-ed section of the New York Times, is up!

My brief companion essay is here, and the introductory essay by novelist Arthur Phillips, who introduced me to the editors, is here.

It's meant to be hard and yet amusing enough that you'll want to share it with a friend or family member and work it together as part of your long holiday weekend.  Did my best, anyway.  Enjoy!

My 650th Kiva loan PDF Print E-mail
Kiva and Microfinance
Saturday, 05 September 2009 16:43
Goes to this group of 20 small entrepreneurs in Trou-du-Nord, Haiti.

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If you're just tuning in, I'm writing a book about microfinance for Bloomsbury. Kiva is quickly becoming the microfinance equivalent of eBay. Great place to start if you're interested.

Want to do something cool today? Go visit, open an account, and loan a few bucks halfway around the world. (Hundreds of loans now, I haven't lost a dollar yet. That's unusual, but their default rate is less than two percent.) It's not charity; you get the money back, they get to build their business, and you get to keep loaning the money right back out, over and over if you like.

My plan is to make 1000 loans this year. I'm a little behind right now, but I'll catch up. After that, I'll just keep re-loaning the same money over and over. It's a great addiction, if you're looking for one. Highly recommended.

Too bad the Emmys aren't this smart PDF Print E-mail
Stuff I like
Monday, 03 August 2009 20:18
Jane accepts the Program of the Year award for Battlestar Galactica at the Television Critics Association Awards on Saturday.

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I think the other three women were her backup singers.

The New Xerox Logo and the Kyrgyzstan Flag PDF Print E-mail
Prisoner of Trebekistan
Tuesday, 07 July 2009 16:33
I just saw the new Xerox logo for the first time (I guess I don't buy office equipment much) in the background of the Dodgers game.  My first thought: why did Xerox (left) adopt the symbol on the Kyrgyzstan flag (right)?

Sample Image  Sample Image

Obviously a coincidence.  Still: small, weird planet we live on.

If you came here from the TV, looking for the book... PDF Print E-mail
Prisoner of Trebekistan
Friday, 26 June 2009 15:27
If you're looking for the book that Jeopardy! mentioned out loud tonight (!):

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It's right here:

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And while you're here, kick off your shoes, poke around, scroll down, hit the Travel or the FAQ if you're curious or click over to the Trebekistan section if you want more Jeopardy!-related stuff, and otherwise make yourself at home. Thanks for stopping by.

Why America Needs Better Scohols PDF Print E-mail
General Incompetence
Thursday, 25 June 2009 10:35
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No comment possible.
A Twitter-length post only seems appropriate here PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 22 June 2009 14:49
CNN trying to look cutting-edge by using Twitter is like 1950s radio trying to look high-tech by describing what's on TV.

(btw, if you haven't noticed, you can follow my own Twitter feed here.  Enjoy my random brain farts of 140 characters or less!)
My 402nd Kiva loan PDF Print E-mail
Kiva and Microfinance
Friday, 19 June 2009 11:03
To Ugandan coffee merchant Max Musiime and her group, to replace business funds pulled out to help the 10 kids she cares for and to buy another bicycle for her employees.

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So far, not one loan has defaulted.

Easiest way to do good I know.

Share the planet! Go do some Kiva.

My Kiva Loan Scoreboard: 375 Loans, Zero Defaults PDF Print E-mail
Kiva and Microfinance
Tuesday, 16 June 2009 01:18
Yesterday morning, for the first time in my account, three loans -- to a Nicaraguan tailor, a Peruvian student, and a Filipino grocer -- were paid in full.

Sure, you can pocket the money when it comes back. (Which is almost always does -- Kiva's overall default rate is currently less than two percent. Given recent stock market downturns, you may well do better with Bolivian woodworkers than the S&P.) But where's the fun in that?

So today, the $25 that came back from Nicaragua, I sent to a student in Costa Rica. The cash from Peru went to another shopkeeper in Uganda, and the money that came in from The Philippines went to a teacher in Mozambique.

When your loans get repaid and you shuffle the money off to somebody else, it feels like you're running your own tiny foundation.  It's really fun.

And remember: this costs me virtually nothing, other than the time value of the money while it's out of my hands and the rare one or two percent of loans that default.  (That said, I haven't had a single default so far.)  And for that fair price -- a few farthings above free -- you get to reach across the world like this:

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Neat, huh?

Now that repayments are starting to keep my account almost reloaded on its own, this is starting to look like a lifetime hobby.

It's one you might enjoy yourself.
Who Hates Whom to be published in Japan PDF Print E-mail
Who Hates Whom
Friday, 05 June 2009 17:37
Just found out.  I had no idea anyone in Japan even knew the book existed.  Neat.

First time I've had something like this happen.  I don't have to translate or anything — the Tokyo publisher is doing all that stuff. 

Still, nihongo wo renshu suru hitsuyou ga arimasu.  (I need to practice my Japanese.)  Arigato!

California Supreme Court on Prop 8 PDF Print E-mail
People in weird black robes
Tuesday, 26 May 2009 11:09
So the state Supreme Court has come to its decision, to wit:

Gay marriage is like a 1920s spitball — illegal unless you did it before the rules changed.

Idiotic we even have to have this discussion.

As the joke goes, gay people should have every right to feel as miserable, trapped, and full of recrimination and grief as straight people.

one of the most successful spitball pitchers of the 1920s was named Urban Shocker.

Make up your own punchlines.
And now, this important announcement PDF Print E-mail
American Culture & Other Scary Things
Thursday, 21 May 2009 00:17
Thank you for your attention.  I have an announcement to make:

[throat clearing noise]

I can climb another mountain.  I can make it thru the pain.  I can even weather the hurricane.

[another throat clearing noise]

What I cannot do is tolerate hearing those @#$%ing horrible lyrics ever again.

That is my boundary.

That is all. Return to your homes.

Kiva PDF Print E-mail
Kiva and Microfinance
Sunday, 17 May 2009 20:16
You've probably noticed the big Kiva thingy on the right side of the page.

Click it and you'll find yourself at Kiva.org, which is the coolest, fastest, easiest, cheapest way of doing good on for strangers on the other side of the planet I've yet seen.

I visit the site almost every day now, and I'm enjoying the process immensely. I've made 241 Kiva loans into 41 countries so far this year, and I can't imagine stopping. Here's a map generated by Kiva's site -- imagine reaching around the world this easily without even leaving your desk:

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Kiva acts as basically an eBay for doing good -- a clearinghouse for making microloans worldwide. You browse, you find somebody in the developing world you want to help, you click and send them $25 or $50 or whatever, and they get a loan at a substantially lower interest rate than they could get on the informal market at home. Anybody who has ever tried to pay off a credit card understands what a difference this can make to people working to climb out of poverty. You don't keep any of the vig -- the middlemen all get a teeny piece -- but you do get repaid in full more than 98 percent of the time. (Not one borrower on my account has missed a even single payment so far.)

This isn't giving someone a fish, and it isn't even teaching them to fish -- this is helping people who have been fishing for years to buy themselves a new boat. Plus, you get paid back, after which, you either pocket the money or just keep re-loaning it out.

Since a lot of these loans help whole families or even finance things like clinics that help entire communities, Kiva has made it possible for me to help literally thousands of people on five continents -- at near-zero long-term cost.

How frakking cool is that?

It really does work, and in a lot of developing-world situations, it's arguably better than simple donations, which can cause unexpected economic dislocations. Hand a kid in some countries $25, and you've probably bought him a bunch of meals -- but you may have also taught him not to be a doctor, if doctors aren't making a living. But if you and a thousand other people loan the doctor $25 each to open a clinic, the entire village may have a completely different future.

The guy who pioneered the idea, Muhammad Yunus, won a Nobel Peace Prize. Damn straight. The folks at Kiva deserve some kind of medal, too.

Click on over. Give it a try.
Getting the old band back together PDF Print E-mail
Prisoner of Trebekistan
Sunday, 17 May 2009 01:21
Sometimes weirdness completely outpaces all expectation.

Sample ImageTurns out tonight was the taping of GSN's first Game Show Awards. Suddenly Ken Jennings and Ed Toutant -- whom you've previously glimpsed here when the three of us played an Jeopardy!-style exhibition match, and here when the three of us were 3/4 of Team USA in the European Quizzing Championships -- were both in town.

Next thing you know, we're all sitting in the Wilshire Theater surrounded by Charo, Meat Loaf, Bob Barker, Cloris Leachman, Monty Hall, and dozens of other people I grew up watching on TV.

If you'd asked me on Wednesday, I'd have told you I had no plans at all this weekend. Now I've got Rip Taylor's confetti in my pockets.

Rip Taylor's actual confetti, people.

I can't give away any details, but it's one of the more delirious TV productions I've seen. Highly recommended.

My thanks to Ken, Ed, Paul Bailey of the Game Show Congress, and some kind GSN PR people for interacting in ways that led to me finding myself in a ringside seat.

Two Streamys and Bragging About It PDF Print E-mail
Stuff I like
Sunday, 29 March 2009 19:22
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Congrats to the beloved Jane Espenson on her two Streamy Awards last night for her Battlestar Galactica webisodes.

Very cool, Jane.

Granted, Two Streamys still sounds like a cabaret act.  Not one you're dying to see.

Still. Two!

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