August 2, 2009

Hey, We Moved!

We have moved over to For those of you subscribed to the blog, you'll probably want to change your subscription as we won't be posting here anymore. Sorry about that. The inaugural post (written by Kevin) is up right now.

We hope you like it! See you on the other side.

July 26, 2009

You're the U to My Q

I wish I could say the words in the title were spoken about me, but they were not. If only... Although Kevin did do something sweet for me - he sent me my yellow immunization card in the mail so I could get it updated (got my last shot on Wednesday). Unfortunately, I forgot that I had asked him to mail something to me, so when I got that in the mail, I thought to myself, "How sweet! Kevin sent me a letter!" and then opened it and was confused by why Kevin sent me a sheet of scrap paper folded around a yellow piece of paper. When I told Kevin this later, he said, "Yeah, I meant to write something on the paper so you wouldn't get excited, like 'This is a piece of scrap paper,' but I was in a hurry." I don't know whether to feel touched that he didn't want to disappoint me or to feel upset that he couldn't take 10 seconds to write on the paper. It's a tough one.

Besides getting that last shot, there hasn't been much travel-related action these past few weeks. The only thing I can think of is that I bought some solid shampoo and conditioner from Lush. This means I can take a lot more tiny sunscreens and tiny toothpastes! I'm thinking of asking Kevin if he can sneak a big thing of sunscreen through the airport in his pocket. Maybe to make up for the whole mail disappointment.

Anyway, that's all the travel-related news for this week. Right now, as I am writing this, Kathleen and her roommate Kate are sitting on the couch next to me cross-stitching and watching "So You Think You Can Dance," on which KATIE HOLMES will be guest-starring. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Katie Holmes dances. For some bizarre reason, I'm more amazed by that than by the fact that she (supposedly) gave birth in complete silence. So if you were here right now, this is what you would see:

Ok fine, so they haven't been sitting like this smiling and showing off their cross-stitches all night, they just did that for the pictures. They were more concentrate-y before this.

[UPDATE: Katie Holmes did not really dance so much as strut. But she has great legs.]

Before this, the three of us had Thai food for dinner. Here is a picture of Kathleen and me repeating the heart theme of the sticky rice. (She wishes me to say that we walked six blocks in the rain before taking this picture and that we are better-looking in real life. I think we look pretty pukingly adorable.)

I never had black sticky rice in the shape of a heart before this. It tasted like regular sticky rice.

Lastly, just for good measure, here is a picture of Kate's cat, Lily.

I can hardly stand the cuteness.

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Where Am I? (Name the city.)


Scrabble Games: 55 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 28; 367; 315; SENIlES
Kevin WPLB: 27; 368; 397; sETTINGS

July 19, 2009

Inundated, But Not Constipated

The last few weeks my brain has been inundated with travel-related activity and wedding planning. (More recently though, my brain has been inundated with thoughts about whether or not I can use the word "inundated" in that first sentence. Did you know that word is not recognized by So although I know I've been a stickler for strictly sticking to the travel-themed blog posts here, this week will be more of a "I do what I want" post, like Zhou often likes to do.

First, I have to review the new Blackberry Storm, AKA "Lookie here, it's typing 'Reno Nevada' instead of 'Rhino Fertata' or 'Emo Pinata'." My mom recently got a company-issued one, and it works great! Oh wait, she doesn't have that one anymore. It broke. So did the next one, and the next. I think she's on her fourth one now within the past three months.

But what about its functionality? To sum up my frustration, my family and I recently drove aimlessly around Indy looking for a Men's Wearhouse while my brother sat in the back seat and tried to find the closest location on my mom's Storm. We found one long before he even got close. Despite Steve's skinny fingers, he was unable to type in the necessary commands to get to one website on the Storm in the 20 minutes that my family drove around. And Steve's not alone - earlier I got so frustrated using that thing that I gave up without ever being able to enter in the password to unlock it. I still don't understand why Blackberry would make such a shoddy piece of equipment three years after Apple put out its flawless iPhone.


I was able to keep my mind off of travel-related stuff for the last three minutes, but I give in. This is a travel blog, so I should discuss how the planning is going.

Zhou and I were about to book our hike on the "finest walk in the world" today, but backed out at the last second. Instead we have decided to do a nearby hike - the Routeburn, which supposedly stays a lot drier and, according to National Geographic, "the scenic payoffs far surpass those of the Milford." If anyone has done either of these two treks, please let us know what you think, as we have not locked into the Routeburn yet.

We have also decided it's time to fill our diarrhea prescription. Wait, anti-diarrhea prescription. I've recently talked to several people who've been off exploring the world, and some have said they haven't had any problems, but others said that was the hardest part of the trip. I'd rather not take the chance. After all, eating something as simple as an orange will probably play tricks on my stomach, having never really eaten non-apple fruits. (On a somewhat related note, don't talk about your airplane bathroom experiences if you want to win The Next Food Network Star.)

Does anyone have tips on what picture website to use when we're on the road? The three I can think of are Shutterfly, Picasa and Flickr, but unfortunately neither Zhou or I has used any of the three extensively. If anyone knows a particularly easy one to use that will let us post thousands of pictures, let us know!

The last travel-related topic of the week: I need to shamelessly promote two travel websites/blogs that I think are pretty cool. First, my cousin Brenda is one of our big world travel influences, and I've yet to give her the proper respect. She's been all around the world a million times, and her favorite spots include Vanuatu, Colombia and Croatia. These are three places not on our itinerary, but not for lack of trying. The worst part is, it took her linking our blog on her site for me to mention hers. Sorry Bren!

The second is a blog by Dave, a friend of mine from work. He did his world travel before becoming an investment banker, and then realized that world travel is so much cooler than banking, and he now lives abroad. Unfortunately this blog was to track a trip from two years ago so it is no longer maintained, but it has some cool pictures and videos. Zhou and I can only hope that we get to see some of the sights that Dave did.


I'll end the post with pictures taken from four different cities where I have recently been, with four different groups of people (because no one other than Zhou can put up with me for any length of time).

(1) Cleveland, OH: jamming at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Matt and Hadley.

(2) Charlotte, NC: disc golfing at Renaissance Park with Charlie.

(3) West Orange, NJ: me and Zhou in Eagle Rock Park at a scenic outlook overlooking New York City.

(4) Fishers, IN: my brother (right) and I doing tricks while tubing on the lake with our parents.


Puzzles for Postcards : We've been debating making some tweaks to our categories, and this week we've decided to make it official. Going forward, there will be no more VQs or Better Chargers, as it is much too difficult to think of good ones. Our puzzle rotation will now consist of Anagrams, Rhyme Time, Consonantless Words and Where Am I? (oooh, a new one!). Good luck, and as always, here is the list of winners.

Where Am I? First person to respond with the country where the below picture was taken wins! Once we get a little ways into our trip, we will use our own pictures for this game, but for now we're borrowing them from Flickr (source). Good luck!


Scrabble Games: 55 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 28; 367; 315; SENIlES
Kevin WPLB: 27; 368; 397; sETTINGS

July 12, 2009

Unraveling the Traveling

Less than eight weeks to go 'til we'll be on the road
If by road I mean plane over water
Me and Zhou will then go where our load will be towed
Through a country that couldn't be hotter

We'll do a safari, maybe pet baby rhinos
And forage the forest for apes
The goal is to know each rhino by nose
Take lots of pictures and then escape!

I can't wait to check out Ngorongoro
And greet all the African villagers
One thing though me and Zhou will forgo:
Meeting the pirates and pillagers

From there we'll fly to Asia, our homeland
Making our way on Cathay
For me to call it "my homeland" Zhou banned
Since I'm born and raised U.S.A.

We'll have a ball for three weeks in Nepal
Hiking a trek near Mount Everest
It's quite long so let's not crawl or stall
A leg-breaking fall and we'll never rest

In Southeast Asia with the Gibbons we'll fly
And I'll have to learn to eat curry
"It's cannibalism!" I'll cry with a tear in my eye
But as they say: with beef curry, no worry

If I don't die we'll move North and then South
The Great Wall on down to New Zealand
On the skydive: bugs, stay out of my mouth
The pee in my pants I'll claim we planned

On the move again to that bunny guy's island
We'll hang with incredible Moai
We can't drive there by land, but let's hope for dry sand
Zhou, I'll wear sunscreen so no fry

I won't try to hide our Argentinian plans
Patagonian rafting, biking and hiking
In Peru we'll scan all the rainforest clans
The monkeys should be to Zhou's liking

Maybe we'll hop as we go to Galapagos
Sadly, not with Trebek
Saving the turtles, we'll be sure to stop a roast
At last a good deed on this trek

Finally in Europe the journey will end
My brain can't retain that far away
But you can depend that the trip will be penned
And logged on our blog each day

So what will I learn through this upcoming journey?
A whole new perspective on life
I'll be with my best friend just like Bert and Ernie
My best friend who's also my wife


Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Wacky Jack's Better Chargers:

Tie Day Lou Bake My Feet
She Lazy If By Lift
Yow Arm Now Clone

Scrabble Games: 55 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 28; 367; 315; SENIlES
Kevin WPLB: 27; 368; 397; sETTINGS

July 8, 2009

Ice Cream and Sangria - Charlottesville, VA

July 3 - 5, 2009

We spent 4th of July weekend with the alliterative Jing and Jeff in Charlottesville. Guess what we did?

a) spent an afternoon at Monticello
b) went for a hike to see the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi
c) went vineyard hopping in wine country
d) relaxed poolside
e) all of the above
f) none of the above (this is the correct answer)

What's that phrase about good intentions? I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it probably applies here.

And even though we didn't visit Monticello, I can tell you that Thomas Jefferson is responsible for bringing french fries to the United States. Apparently, people had only eaten potatoes boiled before this because they thought they were poisonous otherwise. I can also tell you that John Adams thought Thomas Jefferson was being pretentious by serving those new-fangled french fries. I learned this from listening to public radio. I'm sure we would have heard all this on the Monticello tour as well.

Anyway. So what DID we do this weekend?

We drank.

Giant glass of homemade sangria

We ate.

Jing and I with our Friendly's ice cream - I got ALL of the cherries

We hid behind fire hydrants.

Yes, this is a normal-sized fire hydrant.
Yes, Jing and I are just that small.

No, I'm not sure why we did this either.

The four of us (Jing, Jeff, Kevin and I, in case you forgot) also played a LOT of games of spades. If you don't know what spades is, I like to think of it as bridge for dummies. The only reason this analogy doesn't work is because I know nothing about bridge except that Warren Buffet is good at it and it involves bidding and partners. Which is also true of spades.

We also played a bunch of Mario Kart on the Wii. I don't have much to say about that except DARN YOU DRY BONES!! HOW DOES YOUR KART GO SO FAST?

We also played a lot of Cranium and Taboo. I won't say who won the games, but I will say their team name rhymes with "the curls" and not "the toys." And that the team is pictured above hiding behind a normal-sized but giant-looking fire hydrant.

Speaking of rhymes, we're going to go ahead and give Steve the point for the last puzzle. He got the first one ("Farmer Charmer") and the last one ("Blazer Appraiser") right, and I was going for "Best Dressed" as the answer to "The Superlative Look" and "Mentor Center" for "A Place Where Advisers Gather." But his answers of "Supreme Beam" and "Board Ward" work, even though they weren't what I had thought of originally.

Aaaaand this is why I don't write the puzzles.

Picture of the day: I believe that Kevin's gesture can most accurately be described as "okie dokie."

July 7, 2009

Getting Visas (Part 2) - Washington DC

July 2, 2009

Like mad scientists undeterred from their first explosion in the basement, today we were back at it for more.

Yesterday's trip to the embassies did not go well, but I do have to say that today's went worse.


(Zhou eating her hot dog stand hot dog in the Vietnamese embassy)

8) Do not arrive later than 9:45. I mentioned this yesterday, but it bears repeating. Today we arrived at 11:30 for our noon pick-up, and the line was four deep. This may not seem like a lot, until you think of the visa office like the DMV, with the only worker speaking very choppy English and customers who want handwritten driver's licenses. We left by 12:30, at which point the line was seven deep.

9) Do not forget your identification slip in the car across town, unless you really want to tick off the embassy worker. Although we were told (or so we thought) that we did not need the piece of paper with chicken scratch written on it, apparently we did so the lady could locate our file. She was not happy, and in turn the customers around us burned holes in us with their eyes as the lady disappeared to find our file.

10) Do not be dishonest. Ok, this one is just me bragging about being the bigger man with the smaller wallet, but the lady yesterday did not write down if we paid the expedited fee (we didn't) and today she asked us what we had paid her the day before. I told her the truth and handed over the extra $40, but got a good night's sleep afterwards.


(Kevin Doin' Work at the Kenyan embassy)

* If you guessed "(d) Kevin Doin' Work at the Kenyan embassy" to Sunday's quiz, then I'm incredibly impressed, since it wasn't a choice.

11) Do not forget your visa photos in the car across town, unless you luck out with really nice embassy workers. We showed up 15 minutes before Kenya's 1:00 closing, only to realize that we had left our visa photos in the car. We showed the workers that we had everything else, and had completed the application online, and they graciously told us that even though they were closing that we could knock on the window after retrieving our photos and they would help us out.

12) Do not assume every embassy takes cash. After hustling across town via foot and subway, we drove the car back and two hours later showed up at the window. We tried to hand over our $100 for the two visas, only to find out that they only take money orders. The lady told us where the nearest post office was, and we dashed off.

13) Do not be mean to the embassy workers. I think through all this, the only reason the Kenya people helped us out is because we were very friendly and seemed genuinely lost and confused (we were!). After coming back with the money order, I chatted with the lady for a while about the trip and our families and such. She gave me some good sites to see in Kenya, although we won't be able to follow her advice since the safari is planned out for us.

In the end, we now have our Vietnam visas, we have our Kenyan visas coming to us in the mail (if you're doing this option, bring a prepaid non-UPS envelope with you to the embassy), and we will be mailing our passports off to the Chinese embassy once we receive them back from Kenya. Although we don't have all three visas in our hands as expected, it looks like everything will have worked out.

Had this situation arisen in a non-English speaking foreign country (and I'm positive something similar will), Zhou and I will surely find out a good deal more about our problem solving and patience levels will each other. I'm looking forward to this.

Pictures of the Day:

Petite lady Zhou ready to attack her mussels at Granville Moore's (home of executive chef, Teddy Folkman)

The mussels attacked back (see Zhou's shirt stains), but buff hungry Zhou's muscles eventually won

July 6, 2009

Getting Visas (Part 1) - Washington DC

July 1, 2009

Zhou and I are in for a long trip...

Today we had our first out-of-town task to prepare for our upcoming year abroad: get three visas. Not all 11 that we will eventually need to get, but just three. Vietnam, Kenya and China. We were originally going to get them through the mail before we remembered that we would be in DC, so we thought we could get them in person. After all, we're in a country where everyone speaks English and we have access to running water, so how hard can this be?

I think it will be best to write the rest of this post in an educational format, so you can learn what not to do based on each of our three stops.


(Kevin looking for the subway to take us to Vietnam)

1) If you're very short on time, do not arrive at all. If you're somewhat short on time, do not arrive later than 9:45 (the embassy opens at 9:30). This was the one thing we did right. We showed up at 9:31 and walked right up to the window. A lot of good this would end up doing for us...

2) Do not expect your visa in less than a week. We ended up paying $20 per visa as an expedited charge in order for us to receive them the next day. That's a 30% increase over the list price of $65 per visa.

3) Do not arrive with just a credit card. It may seem obvious to some to bring cash or a check, but not us. I ended up running three blocks to a Wachovia ATM to withdrawal cash for our three visas. It actually seems a little ironic to me that you can't use your Visa to get your visa.


(Spirits still high, despite paying the $20 fee at Vietnam)

4) Do not show up without having read all instructions online. For Kenya, if you don't fill out the online application ahead of time, they can't do anything for you. Fortunately for us, it turned out that we wouldn't be able to get our Kenyan visa anyway because even expedited here took two business days to process.

5) Do not expect to get your passport back. Vietnam was able to make a photocopy of ours for their overnight process, but Kenya said they would need to keep ours for their process. For countries like this, you can only get one visa at a time.


(Now just angry because nothing's working out)

6) Do not show up where you think the office should be - look it up first! After walking what felt like two miles from Kenya to China (the embassies, not the countries), we came to a sign that read something along these lines: "we have moved to a land far far away." Fortunately the sign was in English, so we could read it.

7) Do not assume the embassy is in the same location as the visa office. For China, this is not the case. We called my brother who found out that they are two separate places, and all reviews said not to even bother showing up to the visa office - it was way too much of a hassle. Just send your passport and application in the mail.

The worst part about today? We still have to finalize everything tomorrow. I'm sure there will be a laundry list of "do nots" that we'll need to cover tomorrow as well.

A funny side story: we were eating lunch at a local diner which I can't remember the name of when we overhead a nearby lady's directions to her friend: "Yeah, I'm sitting at a diner right next to the Starbucks and down the street from another Starbucks." If you ever need to give directions, find your address and never mention anything about Starbucks! There's 8 million of them! We ended up finishing our meal before the lady's friend ever found the place.

[Any suggestions about how we can improve our travel-posting format are welcome. Is there anything you'd like to read on a daily basis?]

Picture of the Day: my dad is the headliner for Taj Mahal's karaoke night.

July 5, 2009

A Taste of Things to Come

Since we're no longer working for an income (but we still have two paychecks left to come in!), Zhou and I have spent the last week on the road visiting friends and relatives. We've been up and down the East Coast soaking in new experiences and taking pictures of cool landmarks such as our doctor friend standing next to someone else's car.

(If you own this car, Jing is just fake touching it)

In honor of this mini faux world traveling we're doing, we've decided to try our post-a-day strategy for the next three days.

To set your level of anticipation: travel posts will be shorter than what we've been doing, but the ratio of pictures to words will be much higher. If you do the math (p = 1,000w), this means that the amount of content in each post will be similar to what you're used to, but your brain will have to process it differently. Hopefully you can handle this.

Also, our signoffs will start becoming a little different, as we won't have a new postcard puzzle every day, and as we travel we will not keep the Scrabble stats quite as detailed in the blog. We'll have to come up with something else to finish our posts so we can focus more of the time on the post itself.

As a sneak peak of things to come, below is a picture of something that happened on our road trip this week. Can you guess what is happening out of the three choices below?

(1) Zhou and I were driving down I-95 when a large bird pooped on our windshield, right in the driver's line of sight. After pulling off the road and trying the wipers for several minutes, we realized we needed to get to a car wash of some sort. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of nowhere, so at the next exit the only place we found was this house. After washing the windshield, I offered to clean their windows as a token of our appreciation.

(2) While walking around DC, Zhou heard a pitiful meow in a tree by the pictured house. We looked up, and a cat was dangling from one of the limbs with its back paw caught in the tree. As I climbed up to get the cat down, the owner of the house shouted from the window to find out what I was doing. I explained the situation and gave the lady her cat back. Surprisingly, she was not all that grateful...

(3) We were running low on cash, and ATM fees are too expensive to even think about withdrawing anything these days. Fortunately, I noticed this open window in a back alley in Charlottesville. Having not eaten for the entire day, I was desperate. I took a quick peek in the window and saw a couple dollars sitting on the desk inside. It looked like no one was around, so I stealthily reached inside for the cash. You should see the next picture Zhou took. (PS - we later were able to eat at McDonald's.)

Answer to come in one of this week's posts.

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Rhyme Time (solve THREE of four):
(Note: Aaron got the first one correct, and the third one isn't a perfect rhyme, although according to rhymezone it is.)

One Who Enchants Corn Growers
The Superlative Look
A Place Where Groups of Advisors Gather
One Who Values Jackets for a Living

Scrabble Games: 55 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 28; 367; 315; SENIlES
Kevin WPLB: 27; 368; 397; sETTINGS

June 28, 2009

Loose Ends

I have to admit that I don't really understand the phrase "to tie up loose ends." Why do they have to be tied? I also don't understand the expression "to have your cake and eat it too." Because of COURSE you have to have the cake before you can actually eat it. The phrase makes no sense. What it really should be is "to eat your cake and have it too."

Well, we definitely ate it. And yes, there is another "Joe" in the group. He is a man. Which is why there is the "Girl Jo" distinction. Everyone in my group at work has a cool nickname, but I somehow got "Girl Jo." It was either that or "Banjo," (you know, to distinguish me from "Man Joe") so I guess I have no right to complain. Anyway, my group got me a cake AND made me cupcakes for my last day of work. You can't see it in the picture very well, but the top of the cake is an icing picture of North and South America and around the sides are the names of some of the countries we're visiting.


These past few weeks have been full of lasts: last day of work, last trip to REI, last meal at Mac's, last disc golf outing with Charlie...

The hardest part about leaving Charlotte is definitely leaving Charlie. I know I'll be able to keep in touch with everyone else, but it's pretty difficult to get Charlie to talk on the phone. For some reason, she just doesn't get the concept of a conversation. But then again, Charlie's idea of fun is sniffing her own butt. Let's just be clear that I love her despite this habit, not because of it. And even though it'll be really difficult to leave Charlie - I mean Charlotte, it also means that we're just getting that much closer to leaving for our trip.

We're going to DC on Tuesday to get a couple of visas, and so we had to take visa pictures this past week. One of the absurd things about taking passport/visa photos is that you're not allowed to smile. Apparently, they want "a neutral expression." The thought of not smiling for the pictures was so hilarious to me (I don't know why) that I really struggled not to laugh while taking them. I guess Kevin didn't think it very funny, because he gave me a disapproving look and was quite stern about the whole thing. And then he ended up looking like a convicted felon in his visa pictures. The moral of this story is that you should not give disapproving glances to your fiancée or you'll end up looking like a convicted felon.


In other travel-related news, we've pretty much decided to shell out the extra (and unbudgeted) money for a netbook. We haven't decided on one yet, but battery life and hard drive size are going to be the most important factors, so the Samsung N120 and the Asus Eee PC 1000HE are both frontrunners. We're going to hold off on actually buying one until later this summer, so if you have any advice on buying a netbook, let us know.


In other non-travel-related news, I'm sure you all know about the currrent Jon and Kate situation. I can't talk about it. It's just too hard.

Also, I was listening to the radio on Friday, and the station I was listening to was doing a tribute to MJ by playing one of his songs at the top of every hour. So the voice guy comes on and says in that deep radio voice, "Michael Jackson expired June 25th, 2009. RIP." MICHAEL JACKSON DID NOT EXPIRE. HE WAS NOT A CARTON OF MILK.


We're going to do something different today with Puzzles for Postcards, but it's just a one-off thing and only because Kevin is busy driving back to Indianapolis this weekend. Kevin usually writes the puzzles, and I just don't have the same panache when it comes to VQs. Mine are always too easy.

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Rhyme Time (solve all four):
(Example: the answer to "A Fruit Carving of a Serengeti Grazer" would be "antelope cantaloupe.")

One Who Enchants Corn Growers
The Superlative Look
A Place Where Groups of Teachers Gather
One Who Values Jackets for a Living

Scrabble Games: 55 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 28; 367; 315; SENIlES
Kevin WPLB: 27; 368; 397; sETTINGS

June 22, 2009

The Next Chapter (Chapter 11?)

[SPOILER ALERT! This post will not be full of witty commentary and belly-aching humor, per usual. Instead, as Zhou and I begin our move out of Charlotte, this will be a reflection on my past two years here, for better and for worse.]

This week is it. Zhou and I each have four days left of work, and then it’s time to leave Charlotte and rest up before our world trip. If you amortize these four days over the next 14 months ("the life of the loan," as they say), that means we each only have to work less than one day every three months for the next year. That doesn’t seem so bad. (Oh wait, neither does working four days and then taking a year off.)

Up until about a week ago, I couldn’t have been more excited to be leaving and moving on to the next stage of my life. Then Zhou’s roommate moved out, and we started packing up stuff at both of our apartments, and I realized that no matter how exciting this next stage may be, it’s still hard to go through change. So I thought I’d take a minute and reflect on the past two years (bet you didn’t think you were getting yourself into this when you clicked on your favorite website).

Charlotte. Love the laid-back pace of the South, like the comparatively cheap housing and love the weather. There’s not a lot to do here (and golf is way too expensive compared to up North), but until recently I never really had time to do anything anyway. The best parts of the city are easily the disc golf courses and Mac’s Speed Shop. It’s just too bad that when my old roommate Matt moved out, I lost my disc golf and Mac’s buddy. If you’re reading this, Matt, you were good for other things too, but I can’t remember what.

Work. First and foremost, my advice is to not become an investment banker, unless money is the only thing that motivates you (or if the Boiler Room lifestyle intrigues you). That being said, I'm not going to dwell on the negative.

I am very grateful to be able to go on an 11-month round-the-world journey, and if Zhou and I didn’t work at Wachovia, we probably wouldn’t have been able to make these plans. Not only can we now afford this, but we also have a perfect opportunity - neither of us has a job, nor do we have any motivation to get another one.

In the past two years, I learned a lot about business and capital structures and how not to manage a company unless you enjoy bankruptcy (it sure seems like some people do). I learned about time management and how enjoyable free time really is. I remember getting off at 7PM one day last fall and not having a clue of what to do with myself until bedtime. After a few days like that in a row this spring, I quickly realized how many fun ways I could spend my time.

I learned how to prioritize - how to sift through what’s important and what’s not. I learned that even though I’m Asian, if I spend too many weeks under a fluorescent light, I will get sunburned when going outside again. And most importantly, I met a lot of people I will hopefully keep in contact with for a long time, which leads me to…

People. There are three big draws to investment banking. Two are the money. The third is the people, although this may only be true in Charlotte, as I’ve heard mixed reviews about New York. Sure, sometimes my priorities in life don’t always align with the priorities of those I work under, but (almost) all of the people who do this job are smart, driven and big sports fans. (During down times, a couple of guys in my group even organized a doubles tennis tournament and a two-on-two basketball tournament.) Plus, the floor is filled with recent college graduates who you can commiserate with when you're stuck in the office at midnight on a Friday.

The hardest part of moving is leaving behind what has grown comfortable. Yes, at one point I even got used to the weekend staffings and the repeatedly postponed summer vacation. It became somewhat easy to come home late at night, brush my teeth and go to sleep. It's nice not ever really having to look at a map, and it's nice knowing where the open places are to eat (this is much easier said than done in Charlotte, where the city's restaurants all seem to close down by 8PM). I'll miss the daily pod breaks with Katie and McGuire, morning basketball at the YMCA, Charlie, trips to the DH (our slang for the water machine) with the progressively jaded first years, and the city where we lived when Zhou and I got engaged.


As I write about what I'm leaving behind though, I then begin to think about what lies ahead*:

I guess I can get used to this change.

[* Images taken from: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6)]

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

When Gangster Johnny is Home Alone Anagram:

A fickle giant may help the hyena

Scrabble Games: 55 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 28; 367; 315; SENIlES
Kevin WPLB: 27; 368; 397; sETTINGS

June 21, 2009

The Dog Ate My Post

We (Kevin) apologize(s) for the inconvenience, but today's regularly scheduled post will be postponed until tomorrow evening due to this man. The show started an hour late, and I was lazy all week up until that point. Don't worry, tomorrow's post will be extra good to make up for my shortcomings.

June 14, 2009

We're Famous!

I'm not a writer. I majored in Computer Science and Math, so the only "writing" I did all through college was coding programs in C++. I am trying to garner your sympathy for churning out profound, insightful and hilarious material for you almost every week. Because I'd much rather be solving math equations.

Zhou and I happened to connect with a guy named Andy Hayes last week. (Yes, the Andy Hayes. If you Google his name, he's the one who comes up first.) He's a professional travel writer and photographer and the mastermind behind this site. Word of our site's immense popularity must have leaked across the pond to Scotland, where he is located, as he begged us to be featured in his weekly Thursday "interview with a celebrity." Ok, ok, you caught me - we submitted our blog to his carnival, and he reluctantly said he would do an interview with us.

Andy was a pleasure to work with this week, and we were very happy with the end result of the interview. Through the process I explored his site quite a bit, as it is full of helpful travel hints and great pictures taken throughout the world. A few of my favorite posts were:

The Best of Asia
A Photo Tour of New Zealand
Interview with Gary Arndt

I usually try not to shamelessly cross-promote, but usually is a very forgiving term. Also, the time that I would normally spend writing this post I spent doing the interview, so the links are a good way to lengthen this week's short post. And with that, we'll leave you with a link to our interview with Andy.

Oh, and a Cool Runnings video, just because.


Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Consonantless Ice Cream Flavors from Ben & Jerry's:

ee oe aeioe ea
eaoia aie
oee oee uuu
iaie ie eae

Scrabble Games: 55 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 28; 367; 315; SENIlES
Kevin WPLB: 27; 368; 397; sETTINGS

June 7, 2009

Unique New York, New York

"This is your one opportunity to do something that no one has ever done before and that no one will copy again throughout human existence, and if nothing else, you’ll be remembered as the one guy who ever did this, this one thing."

After Natalie Portman says this in Garden State, Zach Braff responds by making a weird noise and moving his index finger a couple times. When I think of doing something that no one has done before and no one will ever do again, I usually think a little bigger than this (although definitely not always - during high school lunches I used to make mashed potato sculptures that I'm sure no one will ever duplicate). I've finally figured out what Zhou and I can do that no one else can: travel the world for 11 months.

Oh wait, lots of people have done this. And lots of people will probably do this in the future. This is easily going to be the most life-changing year of both my and Zhou's life, yet in order for Zhou and me to do something new or make an impact, we'll have to do more. I feel like this is a great opportunity for us to do something meaningful, if only we could figure out what that would be. I'll start figuring the only way I know how: by writing a blog post about it.

Here's the plan: To get the blood flowing, I'll first write about a few things I've done in the past that have been completely unique, and that will segue into some great - make that spectacular - ideas for Zhou and me to make our trip memorable for more than just ourselves.

Let me think...

My family recently took a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate both my brother's 21st birthday and my mom's birthday (I won't say which one, but I will say that the background idea for the present was things in multiples of 50).

As part of my mom's present, I gave her $20 and a card. (For you younger readers, I would advise not to give cash presents to your parents unless there's a good reason for it. Like this.) In my mom's card, I wrote a poem outlining how exactly she had to spend the $20. Along the way, she had to answer a couple random questions that would eventually decide whether or not she would wind up with any money. At the end of the card, everything was explained to her: she would get four chances to turn $5 into $500 at the roulette table. In each of the four, she would bet in the exact same pattern: red, 2nd 12, red (this was what her responses determined earlier), then on her birthday numbers: 10 and 18. If she happened to hit this exact order, she would be $500 richer. If not, she would have hopefully had some fun. After all, everyone loves roulette!

On her first try, we were in one of the smaller, dirtier casinos, and clearly she lost. We decided to up our game and head to New York, New York. We found an open table, and she slapped down the $5. The roulette guy looked incredulously at her, as if to say "do you not realize where you are? I wipe my butt with $5 bills, and I'm just the roulette guy." We all decided to ignore his steely glare. Two spins went by, and my mom had quickly turned the $5 into $30. She shoved it all on red, Steely quickly shoved back $60. As the card dictated, my mom couldn't leave now - she then had to put $13 on both 10 and 18. As she nervously pushed the chips back onto the table, the dealer began to put on his friendly face, no doubtedly thinking he should begin gunning for that big tip.

The wheel spun in what seemed like slow motion. My mom was ready to walk out with just the $34 she had won. What a present that would be! The ball rattled around the numbers, bouncing in and out, never settling. Pretty soon a large crowd had gathered. I think I even saw Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley in the background, their eyes growing wide in anticipation. The ball finally stopped, to a huge gasp from the crowd. 10! It had fallen in the 10! Pete Rose gave Art Schlichter a mighty bear hug. Steely, his jaw agape, pushed my mom's winnings to her. She tossed him a couple chips before high-fiving Phil Ivey and cashing in her winnings.

Wow, that got out of hand quickly. The point was that this card and present are an example of one of the unique things that I have done in my life. I don't think that anyone has ever done that before (including winning the money), and I doubt anyone will ever do it again. Even if someone else comes up with the game, there's only a 1.75% chance that their mom will win.

[As a side note, I got Steve an iPod Shuffle, which he broke within six months. However, he has recently made up for it by tying Paul for the blog competition lead.]

I was going to write another story about something original that I have done in the past, but not only are you probably not paying attention to this post anymore (if you are, thank you for letting me indulge myself over the last several paragraphs), but also I don't think I have any other unique stories, unlike this guy:

So how will Zhou and I make a lasting mark on our trip? Not many people get a chance to do something like this, so we'd better make the most of it.

Several of our friends have spent time overseas doing volunteer work, mainly in Africa. While this wouldn't be all that unique, I definitely would feel like I made a difference. One of the things I'm most looking forward to on our safari is our day or two meeting with children at an African school. I hope that the short time that we'll have there will be enough to make an impact. It's unfortunate that we won't have enough time to actually volunteer while in Africa, and, for that matter, at any of our stops. The way Zhou currently has the trip planned, there isn't a minute of free time anywhere.

In researching different details of the trip, we have come across people who have found unique ways to leave a mark. For example, in Cuzco, Peru, a lady founded Nino's Hotel, where all profits go to children's aid projects also started by the hotel's founder. Also, here in the States, for every pair of shoes that Tom sells, he donates one to a child in need. Although the shoes don't look all that comfortable, the idea is definitely unique and is a good way for Tom to leave a mark. (Ok, I saw this while watching the Super Bowl, not researching for the trip, but I really like the idea.)

Perhaps we can follow in Angelina Jolie's footsteps to make an impression. No, not by stealing Brad from Jennifer (I still don't know how Angelina did this) and having a million babies. Instead, by using the celebrity we have found since starting this blog to do good in the world. The only problem with this idea is that I use the term celebrity very loosely. And not in Angelina's case, but in ours.

(If only...)

The more I write, the more I realize that we won't be able to plan out how we will differentiate our trip from those who have done the same thing before us, or who will do so after. When we first decided that we would take a year off to travel, I secretly hoped that I would find my calling while on the road. I never once hoped that I would find it while blogging about what we would end up doing on our journey. Hopefully a year from now we will have done something meaningful.

And if not, I can always pee on a yak.

[Editor's note: the below anagram has now been corrected, even though Steve already solved it without all the letters]

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

A Lyrical Anagram From Every Party Since 1981:

Roaming vast land
Will wilts... ill
Long Journey

Scrabble Games: 50 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 25; 368; 355; REPOsED
Kevin WPLB: 25; 368; 339; BRAiSED

May 31, 2009

Llama Drama

There’s been a lot of drama in my life recently, the central issue being To Watch or Not to Watch: Jon & Kate Plus Eight. On one hand, eight adorable (half or quarter-Asian) kids! On the other hand, shouldn’t I let Jon & Kate try and figure out their problems and deal with their issues with some semblance of privacy? Is it ok if I watch reruns as long as I don’t watch any of the new season? Does it even matter what I do if they keep doing the show anyway? What kind of cake did they have at the sextuplets’ birthday party? WAS THERE A PINATA??

This has nothing little to do with the subject of today’s post (re: GOALS), but if you peruse the archives of this blog, you’ll notice that Kevin is more of the “everything should flow seamlessly from one paragraph to another” kind of writer, while I’m more of a “you are stuck reading whatever I happen to feel like writing, and I feel like writing about reality TV, so too bad” kind of writer. I’m sorry, but I just won’t hide my true feelings about television.

And with that, we will abruptly segue to the meat of this post, which is entitled “THE GOALS OF ZHOU AND KEVIN ON THEIR TRIP AROUND THE WORLD.”

[I imagine the experience of reading this post so far is like getting on a train, thinking you’re headed to Paris, and then realizing you got on the wrong train and you’re going to Moscow instead – not that you have anything against Moscow, but you really wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, and you don’t speak Russian. I’m sorry if that’s the case, but I hear Moscow is very nice in June.]

Now, let us remember that I have not actually asked Kevin about his goals, but just assumed they are in line with the goals I have in mind for him, which are the following:

1. To try and eat the food that is available to him, including, but not limited to, the following: watermelon, mangoes, pineapple, beets, strawberries, curry, avocado, any kind of nuts besides peanuts, tofu or any other kind of soy-based food, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges, pad thai and pho.

2. To save the sea kittens.
3. To meet new people.
4. To stand with one foot on the Northern Hemisphere and one foot on the Southern Hemisphere. And then jump up and down.

5. To set a personal record for days gone without showering.
6. To meet, and make a good impression on, my relatives that live in Beijing. (Bet you didn’t know about this one, did you, Kev?)
7. To JUMP FROM A PLANE. Crazy person.

I’m sure these goals are completely and without a doubt 100% in line with what Kevin would have written, especially number one. There is no need to ask Kevin for any amendments and/or corrections. So we’ll just go ahead and move on to my list.

1. To gain a better understanding of world geography. I know all of the states and their capitals (although New Hampshire does trip me up), but I have no idea where Kazakhstan is. Or how to spell it. It took me three tries. I probably still won’t know where it is after this trip, but at least I’ll know where Botswana is.
2. To meet new people.
3. To do some things that will scare the living daylights out of me. [This does not include jumping out of a plane. I only want to be slightly more brave, not a whole lot more brave.]
4. To avoid the real world for just one more year.
5. To be more aware.
6. To pet a llama at Machu Picchu. Speaking of llamas, there is a very underrated movie about a llama that you should watch.
7. To swim with pink dolphins.

This is the point where, if Kevin were writing this post, he would seamlessly transition from pink dolphins to a concluding paragraph filled with little jokes and a tidy summation of the main goal, which is: to have an amazing, awesome, challenging, unforgettable 11 months. But I’m not Kevin. (Also, I did not put those adjectives in alphabetical order on purpose. They just came out of my head that way. I swear.)

[So this train is going to Paris after all! Too bad you already bought that ushanka. Sorry about that.]

Instead, I’d like to talk a little bit about the surreal-ness of all of this. It feels like some Zhou alter ego is going on the trip, not me. (My alter ego looks exactly like me, except she is the kind of person who would never sweep the floor twice in one day. And she wears a cool cape, even though Edna advises against it.) It’s almost unimaginable to me that in a little over a year, Kevin and I will have visited five continents and over 30 countries. We’ll have trekked the Himalayas and stood in the sweltering heat in front of the Sphinx. We’ll have met a lot of cool new people whose names I don’t know yet (I’m hoping one will be named Sawyer, because I think that’s an awesome name). And we’ll probably have grown and changed in ways that I can’t even imagine right now. It just completely blows my mind.

I can’t wait.

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

WNDRFL Song Lyric VQs:


Scrabble Games: 47 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 24; 367; 390; FILLIES, ENTAILS
Kevin WPLB: 23; 368; 417; UNsWEET*

May 24, 2009


[Editor's note: I once wrote a post inappropriately titled, “There is Nothing to Fear but Gear Itself.” It was meant to be a pun on the famous FDR quote – wait, this reminds of a horrible story from my childhood, I’ll finish that thought at the end of this post – where was I? Oh, my point was that gear is not the only thing to fear, and in fact it does not need to be feared at all, unless you’re on the opposing team to these guys. So really the title made no sense, but unfortunately it stuck. Then all by myself alone without any help from a comment to this post, I single-handedly got the brilliant idea to write a post about fear, but lo and behold, the good post title was already taken. So in case you read this blog for the post titles, hopefully the content will hold your interest this week.]

Today we wanted to let you in on our deepest and darkest fears about our upcoming travels. The information we share in this post we will have never before told anyone, so if you are the first to read it (and not just skip to the Puzzles for Postcards), then consider yourself among Zhou’s and my closest friends.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the four major obstacles to overcome to enjoy a round-the-world journey: motivation, time, perception and money. However, just as Junior was afraid to tell his dad that he was competing in the Olympics, we were afraid to tell you about the fifth and most important obstacle: FEAR.

Most of you probably don’t know this, but FEAR is actually an acronym, just like SCUBA or BL. Back in the dinosaur age, cavemen made up the word to describe how they felt about Food, Exploration, Absence and Revenue. ( I think this was before the wheel but after fire, but don't quote me on this.) Let me explain.

Fear of food: despite anything that Zhou may tell you, I did not invent picky eating. I come from a long line of picky Currys, most of whom were probably pickier than me. The difference between me and them though, is that I’m about to blog about my eating habits on a trip around the world. And roughly 137 million people will end up reading about it. (Anything more than that is just gravy, another food I don't really care for.)

To be perfectly honest, this is one of my two biggest fears on the trip. I can think of two different strategies for overcoming this fear: the Omnivore strategy and the Survivor strategy. The Omnivore strategy would definitely make me a better person in the long run, as it involves learning to like foods that you absolutely hate. When I was just 11 years old, Jeffrey Steingarten wrote that if you force horrendous foods down your throat over and over again (eight to ten times) that you will eventually like them. I liken this to if you're punched in the face nine times, the tenth won't hurt all that much. Regardless, I'm glad that my parents didn't read this article when it came out.

The Survivor strategy, which I am currently executing to perfection, involves not changing eating habits whatsoever until you're thrown into the fire (figuratively - remember this phrase though when you read the end of the post). I've decided that I'm going to enjoy every meal from here until September 9th, because who knows if I'll get to enjoy another one for 11 more months. And I figure if I'm hungry enough, I'll eat what I need to on the trip.

Fear of exploration: I once watched an interview with Christopher Columbus, and the one thing he reiterated throughout was how afraid he was that the Indians would wind up being monstrous aliens from outer space. After all, he was crossing vast oceans into uncharted territory, so who knew what he'd run into?

Ok, so this didn't actually happen, but I'm sure even Columbus had to have doubts as he pushed off across the Atlantic. And since I'm originally from Columbus, I'm allowed to be afraid of the unknown as well. Of the 30 countries we currently have scheduled on our itinerary, I have never been to 30 of them. In layman's terms, that's every single one. In horror movies, often times the protagonist will be scared out of his mind as he walks slowly through his house, knowing that a killer could be around any corner. But that's his house! He's been there for many years, and knows it like the back of his hand. Yet here I am about to boldly go where I've never gone before! Of course I'll have a little fear in the back of my mind.

Fear of absence: in addition to fear of food, this is my other biggest fear. The things that make me happiest in life are my family and friends (and chili dogs), so it will be hard being away for so long. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I don't really see how that applies here because I'd rather spend time with my family and friends than grow fonder of them. Just like I would rather have millions of dollars than grow fonder of it from a distance. Fortunately though, without getting too mushy, I am very lucky to be spending the next year with Zhou, so that works as an excellent antidote to this fear.

Fear of revenue, or lack thereof: I have spent the last two years of my life seeing how much trouble companies can get into with steep drop-offs in their top-lines, yet this clearly hasn't deterred Zhou and me. A little insider information: don't buy stock in us now, as our income is about to drop faster than Ashley Simpson's after her appearance on SNL.

I think what will be even more daunting than losing our income for the next year will be trying to get it back once we return. And to top it off, Zhou will be heading to grad school, leaving me to fend for the both of us. I'm just going to have to buy a lot of lottery tickets and hope we get lucky.


Back to the story that I referenced earlier. After winning the Super Bowl one year, my family and I went to Disney World to celebrate. This was back in the day that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was big, and they had a replica version set up for all park-goers. It worked like this: 200 or so people would be let into the replica studio every hour, and from this group, people would win their way on stage to sit in the hot seat, with a chance to win real prizes. (I believe instead of a million dollars, if you made it all the way you'd get a Caribbean cruise for two, although you'll soon find out that winning this would never even cross my mind.)

I don't remember how the first contestant was picked, but I'm sure it was through one of those old fastest finger questions. Anyway, once the first person made it to the hot seat, the next contestant would be picked by answering the hot seat questions faster than anyone else in the crowd. Basically, as the first person would get the question, the audience would all be clicking really fast on their thingamajigs when they knew the answer.

As skill would have it, I, at 13 years old, was the fastest in the audience to get all the questions correct, so as the current contestant took the walk of shame back down the losers' tunnel, I gleefully pranced down the stairs to the hot seat, ready to win that top prize. (Looking back on it, I wish I would have tripped down the stairs and broken my arm to avoid any humiliation.)

I sat down and explained to the host a little about myself, and then we were off. Question #1: "Finish the following quote: 'If you can't stand the heat, get out of the ____.' (a) kitchen, (b) country, (c) fire or (d) wool underwear." I had no idea! I had never heard that saying before! Fortunately though, they wanted the contestants to get the first five questions right so they could selfishly promote Disney World by giving you a shirt. If I didn't know, the host would help me out.

Thirty seconds passed, and it became clear to the host that I didn't know. He started to say someth- "cfirefinalanswer." I blurted it all out without taking a breath. The host looked at me with great shame, as if to say "I would punch you in the face if you weren't a child." The audience moaned, and I saw my family quickly sneak out the back door so as not to be seen with me. I quickly realized that this was not the correct answer, so as quickly as I had sat down, I was booted out of the chair and down the losers' tunnel. They wanted me to sign some form saying I would not compete again for at least two years, or something like that. Actually, they might have given me the special form that said never to come back... I can't really remember. All I know was that I would forever be linked with this guy.

PS - Yes, I know it was not FDR, but Truman who said that quote. I figured that out while I wallowed in my own self-pity.

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Some Kind of... Song VQs:


Scrabble Games: 44 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 24; 367; 313; WALKERS
Kevin WPLB: 20; 365; 454; REEDITS, UPsTAGE, INTERAcT

May 17, 2009

Haiku(s) For You(s)

Since Kevin insists that we keep the entries on this blog somewhat travel-related (Hi Kevin, I listen to you! I am a good fiancée! Can we have a photo booth at the wedding?), I will start off this post with a list of things we have done lately in terms of the trip.

We calculated the frequent flyer miles we would earn on the AAdvantage (American Airlines) and Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific) programs to figure out which one we should sign up for. Cathay wins. We should be able to buy our one-way tickets back from London at the end of the trip using the miles we earn on our trip. Isn’t that awesome? We bought our RTW tickets for under $3,000 apiece, and while we are gallivanting around the world we’re also going to EARN miles that will pay for a plane ticket home from London. To me this seems dirty somehow. Like cheating.

We bought tickets on Jetstar to fly from Hong Kong to Singapore, and from Singapore to Taiwan (where we will be visiting Tina – hi Tina!) and back. Just remember: next time you try to book airline tickets in a foreign currency, call your credit card company first!

We registered our trip with the embassies of the countries which we will be visiting. I just want to say that the U.S. government makes it much more difficult than it really should be to do this. I signed up to receive alerts on all the countries we’re visiting, and they sent me a SEPARATE EMAIL for EACH country asking me to click on a link to confirm my subscription. After I clicked on the links, they then emailed me a CONFIRMATION OF MY CONFIRMATION for each separate country, and THEN they emailed me a “Welcome to the ____ list!” email as well! The result is over 120 emails in my trash from the U.S. consular website. Please, Barack Obama, I know you have a lot on your plate, what with being pictured topless on the cover of The Washingtonian, and universal health care, and managing a couple of different wars and all, but could you please get a few programmers to take a look at your site? Please!

We called American Airlines (three times!) to change the dates for a bunch of our flights. Now that we have added an extra week to Southeast Asia (which I am very very happy about) and gotten rid of Bolivia (which I am very sad about), we had to rearrange all of our flights to make the schedule work. This was also tricky because a couple of our segments had already been booked up on the dates that we wanted, which meant we had to be flexible and rearrange. And guess what? I was totally ok with that. No, really, I was!

We went to REI this past weekend. And every trip to REI ends up with us buying stuff that we “need,” like rainproof covers for our pack, which, ok, I admit those are kind of necessary. But not as necessary as sporks!

It’s the “Perfectly Designed Outdoor Eating Utensil”! It comes in 19 civilized colors! Unfortunately for me, Kevin is not as susceptible to the allure of multifunctional eating utensils as I am. He also isn’t interested in the foldable dinner set, which I think would go great with the sporks. It seems like keeping all of our stuff dry is more important to Kevin than having cool things to eat off of that don’t take up a lot of space. Go figure.

We’ve also been mulling over how connected we want to stay during the trip and have been revisiting the idea of taking a netbook with us. Especially with Verizon and Sprint coming out with plans for Novatel’s MiFi – we’re now thinking about buying one of these bad boys to take with us. Two problems: (1) we’re not sure this will work outside of the U.S., and if it does, we probably have to pay ridiculous amounts of money for the data plan and (2) how can we afford to buy the netbook, the MiFi, AND the data plan when there are so many sporks that still need to be bought?!

So now that the travel stuff is out of the way, we can get to the good part of this post, which is subtitled “Haikus on the Things in Zhou’s Life,” or, alternatively, “Why Kevin Should Let Zhou Write Non-Travel-Related Posts Because She is Better at Those Anyway”

pitter-patter feet
soft, quiet paws on the floor
she leaps into bed!

“Too Many Games on TV That Kevin Must Watch”
oh Houston Rockets
Yao Ming was your worst player
who’d have thought? not me

“No Jalapeno Cream Cheese for My Bagel This Morning”
so I used butter
frozen bagels aren’t as good
fresh ones are better

"Being Better at Limbo Is Little Consolation"
Ultimate Frisbee
a game that favors the tall

“Going to the Dentist to Get a Chipped Tooth Fixed”
this tooth should be fixed
it only hurt a little
seventy dollars!

“My Dream Scrabble Play”
the triple triple
laying down “quixotic” – ha!
will this ever be?

“Working Out at the Gym in My New Gym Pants”
they are soft and black
but I get sweatier than
with the shorts I wear

“Justification for a Shorter Post than Normal”
I am quite busy
taking naps (and watching stuff)
sorry about that

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Dan's Belt Better Chargers:

Hog Fat Dug Would
Don Pays On Hummer
Ill Bank End So Bile

Scrabble Games: 42 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 24; 368; 364; LOITERS, NAtIONS
Kevin WPLB: 18; 363; 339; LASTInG

May 10, 2009

1,000 Visitor Extravaganza Post!

I've noticed that Sportscenter doesn't tend to show Cincinnati Reds highlights, probably because either (a) they haven't made the playoffs since 1995 or (b) they share a name with Communists. However, a few mornings ago I noticed that they were in the Sportscenter lineup, so I had to stick around and watch.

When Stan Verrett came on the air to read the highlight, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Following a lengthy alliterative introduction using more words that begin with 'v' than I ever knew existed, I then learned that in the history of major league baseball, no two pitchers whose last names begin with the letters v-o-l had ever faced one another (as Edinson Volquez and Chris Volstad did). In fact, not since the early 1900's has a Major League Baseball pitcher's last name begun with v-o-l. But that's not all. Joey Votto of the Reds is the only big league player to ever have a last name beginning with v-o-t, therefore making the Volstad-Votto matchup the first ever v-o-l vs. v-o-t pitcher-batter matchup ever.

Why am I telling you all this? One reason: to show that no matter how crazy I am bound to get in keeping statistics on the trip, it can get worse. So with that, welcome to our special...

1,000 Visitor Extravaganza Post!

Zhou and I (minus Zhou) thought long and hard about how to give back to you, our loyal readers for accidentally clicking on our blog every now and then. We considered having Zhou write the blog (your prize would be avoiding my nonsensical rambling for a week), but we thought that was giving back a little too much. We've already posted pictures of Evangeline Lilly and Jennifer Aniston, so that wasn't an option. So we decided to do what we do best: make a contest!

Since Puzzles for Postcards has been going so well, we've decided to make a whole new contest, with bigger stakes, and a longer wait for the winner. This contest will consist of five questions, each with a numerical answer. Each question will be graded individually, from first place to last place. For example, if 1,324 people answer question one, and you are 176th closest, then you get 176 points. Then we add your rankings on each of the five questions, and the person with the lowest total score wins! Also, as an added bonus, if you get a question exactly right you get a five point deduction from your total score. So if only two people respond, then that almost guarantees you the victory!

Make sense?

Please note that in all questions, you're not trying to guess the combined total for me and Zhou, but rather the total for just one of us.

(1) How many miles will Kevin and Zhou fly? You could definitely look this up given our itinerary, but (a) you'd be wrong since there are hidden flights and layovers, and (b) I would hope y'all have better things to do with your time than calculate our plane mileage. However, I do know that there are bigger wastes of time.

(2) How many hours will Kevin and Zhou spend on buses, trains and the Eurail combined? Here's an initial guess to help out: we'll be gone for 324 days, or 7,776 hours. I have built it up in my head that we'll be spending 80% of our trip on buses, which equates to 6,221 hours.

(3) How many pictures will Kevin and Zhou take? We stole this statistic from thirteenmonths, which is, as previously mentioned, a big inspiration for us on this trip. One caveat when guessing: yes, this will include the copious amounts of pictures Zhou takes of baby animals and Kevin takes of all the McDonald's he plans on eating.

(4) How many games of Scrabble will Kevin and Zhou play? As you know, our plan is to play near every landmark, big and small, and take a picture of us doing so. In addition, we will be spending up to 6,221 hours on buses, so there's plenty of time for more games.

(5) How many new foods will Kevin eat? As much as I want to count French McDonald's french fries, Zhou won't let me. So new foods means actual new foods - not variations on an old favorite (like the "Chile" dog). Since this is a little subjective, Zhou will be the official "food-keeper."

We haven't decided what a good prize would be for the winner yet, so for now consider this something that's extremely fun and a way to make our trip more competitive than it is (and before you start complaining, I promise we'll actually think of a real prize). If you respond with answers, even our boring posts from the road will be fun, as you'll be anxious to see if we've played another game of Scrabble, or spent another few hours on a bus. And ever since I've become addicted to centsports, I've learned that even someone else's dime on the line makes everything in life much more interesting.

As you respond with your guesses, we'll be keeping track of the statistics here. Just for future reference, we will not accept any responses after we take off for London on September 10.

Good luck!


In other news this week, we learned another lesson about attention to detail in planning our trip. One would think that for something of this magnitude we'd be extra careful in booking flights and setting dates. We've already mentioned our first screw-up, when we booked our flight from London to Nairobi a couple days after our safari is supposed to begin. Fortunately, we lucked out there, because we lost less on the $125 per person change fee than we gained on the exchange rate in re-booking the flight. This time though, we have lost the Bolivia and Salar de Uyuni part of the trip. Why, you ask?

When setting up the round-the-world ticket, you can do "surface sector" legs, or segments where you don't take a flight (they still count against your 16 segments though). If you declare that you're taking a flight, you must take the flight. If you declare a surface sector, you cannot take a flight. For instance, we are doing a surface sector from Nairobi to Johannesburg. We will be flying into Nairobi and out of Johannesburg, but we're using trucks to get from one place to the other.

As our stupidity would have it, we accidentally booked Santiago to Lima as a flight, and not a surface sector. Therefore, we will not be taking a bus up through Bolivia to Peru from the southern tip of South America, but rather we will be taking that bus to Santiago and flying into Peru. I guess in the end that's a lot less bus-riding, which is a good thing, unless your contest guess ends up falling a ways short.

[Zhou: I still maintain that this may have been the agent's fault when we initially booked it. Plus, this makes no sense to me! Why would they charge us $250 to NOT fly a segment? Can't they make money selling those two seats to someone else? I just don't get it. Sigh. At least this means we get to spend more time in Southeast Asia, land of mango sticky rice.]

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Gettin' Jiggy Wit' A Statistical Sample Anagram:

N prefers Ali before Hitch

Scrabble Games: 41 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 23; 368; 383; DOPIEST, DoTTIER
Kevin WPLB: 18; 363; 351; bLOUSES