April 28, 2009

Getting to Know Kevin (Part 2)

...continued from Sunday.

(8) Secret celebrity crush:

He tries to hide it, but I know he has a thing for Kate on “Lost.” And I guess I can’t really blame him.

I don’t try to hide this at all! And she left off Jennifer Aniston, but that’s probably because if you don’t have a crush on Jennifer Aniston, you must not be breathing.

(9) Most idiotic moment:

Senior year of college, Kevin and I were watching a comedy show by Henry Cho that AASA had sponsored. We were sitting next to each other. (Please note that at this point, Kevin and I had been dating for two years, and the crowd was filled with people we knew.) Henry has just gotten to his “get to know the audience” bit and asked Kevin what he was going to do after graduating, and then he asked me what I was going to do after graduating. After we both told him we were going to work for Wachovia, he then turned to Kevin and said, “So are you two dating?” (Remember: at this point, we had been together for over two years and all of my loyal and loving roommates were sitting on the other side of me in the same row). We all turned to look at Kevin. He looked at me. Then he looked at Henry. “No.”

Later, when asked why he said this, he told me he thought that Henry was going to make a joke out of it. I ask you, HOW would that have been funny?

Sadly, none.

(10) Weirdest habit:

Kevin doesn’t have any very weird habits, but he has a few that are a little weird. He always has to plug in his iPod in the car even if we’re just going to be in the car for five minutes. If Charlie is sitting on his lap, he won’t get up unless she does first. He takes 15 minutes to brush his teeth (this is why he has receding gums). He wears his sunglasses even when it’s dark enough that he’s turned on the car lights.

It’s weird – I know I have a lot of weird habits, but just can’t think of any on the spot. I think brushing my teeth while watching an entire Friends rerun is right up there, and some people say that dipping Wendy’s fries in Frosty is weird.

(11) Best sports moment:

Since I’ve only been told this story and didn’t see it actually happen, the details will be all wrong a little fuzzy. Kevin was playing in the last fourth position (I have been informed that there are no “positions” in golf, but it is my story, so there are) for his golf team in high school. They were at the regional finals. He had not been having a very good day, and was frustrated from having hit several bad shots. He came up on the 18th hole in a foul mood, not knowing that he would have to par birdie this last hole to take the lead and win it for his team. … [some stuff happens that I don’t really remember] … He then has a 10-foot 15-foot 25-foot putt to win it for his team. The crowd is silent with anticipation. His head is still cloudy from all those missed shots, and he hasn’t made a putt all day, but somehow this one rolls towards the flagstick and goes in! The crowd goes wild!! He then realizes that he has single-handedly saved The Columbus Academy golf team from losing to their hated rivals. He is carried off the field by all of his fans. They later go on to the state tournament, which they lose.

Most of this story is pretty well described by Zhou. The only major edit that I have is that we got fourth in States. I suppose this technically is a loss since we didn’t win, but it’s not like we got 16th out of 16. Oh, and I would like to say there was a bigger crowd at Regionals than Zhou depicted, but I suppose to keep this factual, you could hardly call it a crowd. It was just my teammates and some other random golfers and parents.

(12) Previous international travel experience:

Well, let’s see. Kevin has never been to Europe. Or even Canada. But we’ve been to the Bahamas and Jamaica. And Kevin at least knows the names of all the countries, (thanks to Yakko’s World), which is more than I can say for myself.

Eh? I have been to Canada, thank you very much.

(13) Thing Kevin is most proud of:

Hmm – this is a toughie. It’s probably knowing all the lyrics to every Animaniacs song ever. That or knowing the plotline of every single episode of Home Improvement.

Although I am very proud of knowing the lyrics to many Animaniacs songs (most notably Yakko’s World, as mentioned in question 12), the proudest moment in my life had to be the following:

They were having a sale on abacus stones at Toys R Us, and since mine were getting worn from all the use, I couldn’t pass it up. The problem was, this caused me to miss Jeopardy! (this was back in the old days, before DVR). Fortunately my brother was able to catch it, and he liked the Final Jeopardy question so much that he let me have a crack at it in the car later that night.

Steve: “The U.S. company now with the largest revenue is located in this state, which has the lowest per capita income.”
Me: “Hmmm… I’ll go with Washington”
Steve: “Wrong, but one of the contestants did guess that. Guess again.”
Me: “Ok, how about Georgia?”
Steve: “Wrong again, but another contestant guessed that. One more try.”
Me: “I have no idea then… Arkansas?”
Steve: “Yep, that’s it! The third contestant got it. The company is Wal-Mart.”

Based on this sample, I am as smart as every person to ever appear on Jeopardy! (therefore by transitivity, I am as smart as everyone in the world). Not only that, but I am so smart that I didn’t get this right on the first or second try, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to match all three answers. However, I didn’t expect Zhou to pinpoint this as my proudest moment, so both her answers were very good.

As a side note – this episode of Jeopardy aired on November 1, 2002. I looked it up.

(14) Favorite personality trait of Zhou:

Hmm – this is by far the hardest one to answer. I think it’s that I push him to do and try things that would normally be out of his comfort zone (please see: dancing the hula, dancing in general, emcee-ing ANYF 2007, eating granola bars, eating yellowfin tuna, wearing jeans, etc).

While I do like that about her, when I’m trying the nasty foods she imposes on me, I don’t like it as much. I think my favorite part about Zhou is her drive and work ethic, and the fact that once she decides what she’s going to do, she does it. For this round-the-world trip we’ll embarking on in a few months (we may have mentioned it before), I am not worried about anything because she has done such a good job researching and planning. When she goes to grad school following the trip, I have no doubt that she will rise to the top of her class. And once she graduates, I am planning on retiring early because she’ll make millions of dollars, because who wouldn’t want Zhou working for them?

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Familiar Better Charger Sayings:
Old Tan Nut
I Bind It Tie Land
Sang But No Day

Scrabble Games: 40 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 22; 368; 427; DOWnTIME, ASININE
Kevin WPLB: 18; 363; 461; MEANEST, PAgODAS, BROODING

April 26, 2009

Getting to Know Kevin (Part 1)

We have noticed that this blog is slowly becoming more popular than William Hung, officially making us the most famous Asians in America. In honor of us taking over this coveted title, we have decided to treat you, our loyal readers, to a special two-week series of posts about getting to know Kevin and Zhou. Over the next nine days, we will post four separate times for your viewing pleasure. Yes, this means four nights of light reading, four chances to get on our Puzzles for Postcards list of winners, four Scrabble log updates. I can barely contain my excitement in writing this paragraph, so I can’t even imagine how you feel reading it. To make this even more exhilarating, this week Zhou will be answering the questions about Kevin, and next week Kevin will be answering the exact same questions about Zhou. Finally, although it may look like we ripped these questions from a junk chain mail, we actually created them ourselves.

[Zhou: Please note that Kevin wrote this introduction. I had nothing to do with it.]

So with no further ado, it’s time to see how well Zhou knows Kevin.

(1) Favorites (an easy one to get the blood flowing):

Favorite college class: that art class he took freshman year before we knew each other – I think it may have been drawing?
Favorite movie: please, anyone who has read even one post on this blog knows
Favorite food: the one and only… chili dog (or chilly dog)
Favorite animal: the wolf
Favorite book: um…Kevin is more of a listener, not a reader

My favorite college class was actually a Computer Science algorithm class I took senior year with Dr. Johnson. As an example of how much I liked it: I remember falling asleep one day in that class (I was one of six students, and I sat next to the professor), and I actually felt really bad.

My favorite animal is more specifically the gray wolf (canis lupis). I wish I could post the picture of me dressed up as one for Halloween in third grade, but it’s at my parent’s house.

I have so many favorite books, I can’t believe Zhou couldn’t think of any! If I had to pick one though, it would have to be Rascal, by Sterling North. We were required to read it back in elementary school, and boy am I glad we were.

(2) Most prized material possession (that Kevin is taking on the trip):

In general, I think it’s his car, his golf clubs or his guitar. I remember him telling someone once that the two things he doesn’t like people borrowing are his car and his clubs. (But I’ve borrowed both – shhh, don’t tell.) As for the trip, it’s definitely his iPod.

I assume that I’m not allowed to answer the travel Scrabble board as my most prized possession I’m taking, since that belongs to both of us. (No wait, that’s mine – Zhou got it for me as a present!) If so, I would say my iPod is tied with my blue Matt Wertz shirt. I know we’re not supposed to bring cotton clothing, but that shirt is so comfortable!

(3) Biggest pet peeve:

Pets wearing clothes – which means this is a perfect place for a picture of a clothed Charlie (complete with Devil eyes)!

Also, I think Charlie looks adorable.

This is 110% accurate. This makes me just like Monica from Friends.

(4) What will annoy Kevin most on the road:

Rude people. His second biggest pet peeve is when people in cars don’t wave after you let them turn or go in front of you. Also, he doesn’t know this yet, but hearing me say “Just try some – it’s really good!” will probably be a close second.


(5) First memory:

This one involves clowns and being strapped in a double stroller. Then there is frantic trying to get away from the scary clowns. Then there is lots of blood.

Wow, Zhou’s good. I couldn’t remember my first memory until she mentioned it. My family and I were in Cincinnati for a Reds game, and one day my parents thought it would be fun to see their older son squirm, so they decided to take us to a parade with… CLOWNS! They knew I hated clowns! And to make it funnier, they decided to tell us while they were pushing the stroller with Steve and me in it up the brick stairs at the hotel. I would have none of it – at the mere mention of the word “clowns” I crawled out of the stroller. Only I hadn’t thought out my full escape route, and hadn’t thought to get out feet first, so I cracked my head on the corner of one of the steps. This is where the blood came in (I guess technically it came out). Also, this is where I realized that my parents weren’t out to get me, because my dad picked me and my bloody face up and began running frantically around in circles. (Maybe the high rate of speed at which he was running would stop the bleeding?) Fortunately there happened to be a doctor eating breakfast nearby, and I don’t remember the rest.

(6) Thing Kevin can’t do without in life:

This is a close tie between college football, March Madness, fantasy football, the Masters, baseball season until the Reds are out of playoff contention and NBA playoffs. But I think college Buckeye football is probably number one by a hair.

Probably could have included Cavs basketball, Browns football and the Olympics, but Buckeye football is #1.

(7) Story from before we met that Kevin likes to tell most:

This isn’t necessarily the story Kevin likes to tell most, but it’s the one that I like to hear the best. Plus, the story ends with “and then we went to McDonald’s,” which is almost as good any story that ends with “and then I found $20 in my pocket.” So Kevin and Steve were in this (really cool and awesome) math tournament, and they ended up having to face each other in the final round (after beating out millions of other super smart kids). They then tied in the final round (dun dun dun!), so they had to go to a tiebreaker question. BUT! They both solved the problem and raised their hands at the EXACT same time (the judges deliberated for quite awhile). So they were given another tiebreaker (DUN DUN DUN!). This question involved factoring (or maybe limits? No wait, that was Mean Girls), which Kevin knew Steve had yet to learn, being a grade below. So Kevin coolly took his time and nonchalantly solved the problem and won the round. And then their parents took them to McDonald’s. The other funny thing about this story is that when Kevin tells it, he always stresses the fact that the answer was Steve’s favorite number, so if Steve had just guessed, he probably would have gotten it right.

The way the really cool and awesome math tournament worked was that the 16 top scores in the region squared off in a bracket arranged in alphabetical order (so as not to give away who won the region, which was the highlight later on in the day). Despite my coach’s argument that it was unfair that Steve and I had to face each other, the order stuck, and there we were in a first round battle for the ages. We split the two questions of the best of three, and the tie took place on the third question. Then the answer to the tiebreaker was 8, Steve’s lucky number.

Do you remember when Ohio State beat Miami in a double overtime thriller in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl National Championship game? Yeah, it was like that.

To be continued Tuesday…

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Movie VQs:
Hint: the quotes below are from three different (and famous) movies that are from the same genre.


*I stole this one from Mental Floss. Thanks Mental Floss!

Scrabble Games: 40 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 22; 368; 427; DOWnTIME, ASININE
Kevin WPLB: 18; 363; 461; MEANEST, PAgODAS, BROODING

April 19, 2009

All Work And No Play Make Homer Something Something

The most common reaction that Zhou and I get when we tell someone of our upcoming plans is "Really? That sounds amazing!" Then we tell the person that we're going to travel the world for a year after we learn all the seven-letter words in the Scrabble dictionary (taenias: some sort of tapeworm; banties: small hens), and the person gets even more excited. This inevitably leads into a conversation that starts with the details of the trip and ends with somebody chanting Sanka's Jamaican bobsled song. It's the middle part of the conversation that always makes an impression on me though.

At some point, the person always says something like “I wish I would have done this at your age,” and then goes into a rant about his or her spouse and/or kids. (Yes, Zhou and I are too boring to hang out with people our age.) This makes me realize how fortunate Zhou and I are to have not only the time to travel, but also the money, motivation and moxie to make it happen. (I specifically am fortunate to have a Zhou who is very good at planning and very forgiving when I don’t put in nearly as much time as she does.)

To me, the problem is that it does take a very fortunate set of circumstances to be able to do what we’re about to. And the further we’ve gotten into the planning of our journey, the more I realize that it’s the right thing to do at this stage in our lives. So while it’s nice to be idolized by everyone now, when future Kevins and Zhous announce their plans to travel, I dream that the more common reaction will be, “cool, I just did that myself!” The more I think about it, the more I think that this actually could become more popular among motivated recent college graduates who don’t yet have kids.

There are four major obstacles to overcome to enjoy a trip like ours: motivation, time, perception and money. Fortunately though, I believe there are also four good solutions, and as it turns out, one solution remedies each obstacle.

Motivation: This is less of an obstacle to be overcome, and more of a strainer to separate the chunky slackers from the fluid world travelers. If you aren’t motivated, no need to travel. However, it doesn’t take a lot to be motivated for an adventure of a lifetime. Zhou once wrote that she wasn’t sure what motivated us to turn our dream of traveling into a reality. I imagine though that the conversation went something like this:

Zhou: I just swept the floor [twice], can you eat that chili dog over the sink?
Kevin: You know, we could travel the world for a year and it won’t matter where I eat.
Zhou: In the meantime… sink!
Kevin: I’ll book the tickets. [Zhou then booked the tickets.]

So you see, it doesn’t take much. However you end up deciding having fun is something you’d like to try, feel free to read this earlier post to help jump-start the planning process.

Perception: I get the sense that some people would frown upon young travelers who don’t contribute anything to society. (“When I was your age, I used to walk four miles to work, uphill both ways!”) It’s bad enough that I didn’t contribute anything to society for 18 years, unless you count my summer job of eating Graeter’s, the best ice cream in the country. (The job itself wasn’t to eat the ice cream, but one of the perks was free food while on the job. I think that we actually ate more in ice cream than we made in hourly wages, but that’s really not saying much.)

However, when I talk to my backup friends in London and Sydney, I find that time for world exploration is practically encouraged in those countries. It’s called a “gap” year, most likely short for global awareness period. (Ok, maybe not – I just like making acronyms of everyday words.) I’ve heard that Zhou and I will probably bump into a lot of Europeans and Australians while on the trip, and not just while we’re in Europe and Australia. If the people across both oceans promote young travelers, why can't we?

Time: College usually ends in May, and for most jobs the work year starts in January (sure people start working in June, but then there’s that stub year which is hardly a year at all). That leaves around 6 - 7 months of free time for one either to try to mooch off the parents again, play a marathon game of Settlers of Catan, or go out and see the world. As much as I like Settlers, seven months would be a really long game…

Maybe there could be a program run through colleges – a “ninth semester” program of world travel. I know that my seventh semester was pretty tough, and the eighth was 10x easier, so it makes logical sense to do a ninth that involves nothing more than playing with real Swiss Army knives and hanging out with real Brazilian models. And of course eating as much foreign McDonald's as possible.

This program could be set up like a semester abroad, only without classes (maybe do some volunteer work at some of the stops, like Vanderbilt’s Alternative Spring Break). I have no idea how liability and that type of stuff would work, but I do know that liability is bad and drinkability is good.

Money: At first glance, this appears to be the biggest obstacle. However, with a well-planned out budget and an acceptance that you won’t be staying in four-star hotels everywhere, world travel is actually much cheaper than you may think. One extreme example is that Zhou and I should be able to do our trek in Nepal for approximately $10 per person per day. This is an all-in cost that includes everything from lodging to buying lots of cheap DVDs. The DVDs in other countries aren't quite this cheap, but our average daily budget for the entire trip is around $35 per person.

Despite it being less expensive than it may appear, traveling isn’t exactly like eating peanuts, or whatever the phrase is. The biggest cost is the fact that we won’t be getting paid during our time away. (Not everyone is as lucky as these people.) And if sleeping through Econ 101 taught me anything, it was opportunity cost.

There are a few solutions for the money problem. (1) Inherit a lot of family money, or win the lottery. (2) Become an investment banker, date another investment banker and both of you bust your butt at work for a couple years after college. This solution though is no longer recommended, as there’s this whole recession thing that may or may not have stemmed from me piling too much debt on big companies. (3) Save. This one deserves its own paragraph, so let’s do that.

I really don't want to preach on how to save money, but Zhou feels that it is necessary. Maybe a simple algebra problem will make this seem informative. Let's use the $35/day number that I mentioned earlier, and say that you travel for six months (180 days). Your total daily budget would then be $6,300. After throwing in the cost of transportation, immunizations, visas, insurance and gear, the total cost of a six-month getaway could be approximately $12,500. In order to save this much money through your four years of college, you would need to save a little under $8.60 per day. That's just one hour of work, or two less drinks at Starbucks, or eight less rolls of toilet paper (switch to leaves - it's probably better for the environment) per day. And if you need 118 more ways to save, click here.

Once the Kevins and Zhous of the future are able to become motivated, spare some time after college and save money, I envision that the gap year for world travel will become increasingly popular here in America. Tune back in as we actual start traveling to get our advice on where to go.

Puzzles for Postcards: Today's we'll try a new type of puzzle, fresh out of the Jeopardy! oven. Below are four words (single words, not hyphenated) from a common category, only they all have their consonants removed (the opposite of VQs). You're job is to be the first to solve three of the four, and we will then be obligated to add you to the list of winners.

Consonantless Colors:
(1) aea
(2) aee
(3) ioe
(4) oie

Scrabble Games: 39 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 22; 367; 365; VITTLES, ASExUAL
Kevin WPLB: 17; 361; 364; PARTIERs

April 12, 2009

Tour of the Technology for the Trip

Zhou told me earlier this week that I should create an iPhone application, much like this guy. Since I know what's best for me, I simply said, "Sure, no problem," and nodded my head. (She has also "suggested" that I do the hula in front of 500 people...)

Apparently writing code for iPhone applications is not too difficult, and seeing that I am a computer science major (I think), I should have a leg up on the competition. So I have now added this to my life's to do list, right in between completing the Wendy's 99 Cent Menu Challenge (inflation is going to make this one a slam dunk) and coaching a Jamaican bobsled team (if John Candy can do it, who can't?).

The idea of writing an iPhone app got me thinking: there's got to be a better way to design peanut butter containers to limit the amount of peanut butter that goes to waste. It also got me thinking about applications that would help us on our trip around the world. After all, the apps currently on Zhou's iPod Touch - Tangrams, a level - will probably not be of any value to us on our journey, unless of course we encounter a crooked shelf. However, before we get into creating and marketing an extraneous piece of software, there are many other technological problems that we will need to sort out.

To start, should we bring a laptop? In today's world of machines becoming more "Zhou-sized," packing a laptop is becoming more feasible. Our current stance is if we have room under our gear budget and in our backpacks, then we'll look into it in more depth. I see the following benefits of carrying a laptop:

- Blog posts coming at ya anytime we get wireless
- Quick access to Excel spreadsheets for data entry
- Collateral anytime someone takes our Scrabble board

On the flip side, here would be a few disadvantages:

- A wallet that's been mysteriously reduced by $300+
- Bait for muggers and thieves
- No swimming with our packs on
- The hassle laptops create at airports

The last consideration is reason alone not to carry a laptop. We'll already be bogged down with 3-ounce liquids and nail clippers, and I really hate being that person who uses the last three gray bins with no regard for the people next in line. Anyway, if we were to take a laptop, it would probably be the Dell Inspiron Mini 9. If anyone has ever used one, please let us know what you think.

Our next technological decision relates to our choice of phones / long-distance calling cards. There are many different viewpoints on how best to keep in touch, but we have narrowed our choices down to four.

Our choice du jour is to take the Blackberry that I currently use for work (if I can separate it from the negative connotations of midnight emails and weekend staffings). It's an 8830 World Edition, which can be "unlocked" for less than $30 and then would be compatible with foreign SIM cards that we can purchase in countries around the world. I think that would give us the freedom to talk as much as we want in some countries, while keeping to ourselves in others and blaming it on either high-priced SIM cards or no access to SIM cards at all.

Our other choices include buying prepaid calling cards throughout the world, using Skype whenever we get wireless, or taking a cup and a really really long string. We could also do some combination of the aforementioned choices (but no, not a really long string and a calling card).

Of all the technological decisions we will face, the one thing most important to us is keeping up with the blog so Paul, Hadley, Matt and our soon-to-be billions of followers can keep tabs on what we're up to. So tell all your friends - here are the future plans for http://kevinandzhou.blogspot.com/ (yes, I just included a link to the very site you're reading).

Zhou and I are taking a couple months off before taking our year off to travel, and in those two months, my one and only project will be to design a website that we will pay for out of our own pockets (don't worry - we're counting it against our travel budget, so it's like we're not spending any real money at all). When this thing of beauty is complete, we are debating whether to transfer the blog to the website, or keep it here and link the two together. I can't tell you what is the current front-runner for our website's name, because someone is sure to grab it and hold it for ransom. However, if you have any good ideas of your own, please do let us know - we're not married to the site name yet.

Once we leave the United States, our goal will be to have a post written for every day of our journey. This does not mean we will post every day, but we will hand write our posts daily (you know, like the pilgrims used to do) and put them all up at once when we get to an internet cafe (maybe not exactly like the pilgrims). So imagine the incredible excitement you get every Sunday night and multiply that by seven, if you can. It'll be that good.

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

The #1 Reason To Get Up In The Morning Anagram:
"A thirsty group wants coffee in bulk, or guppies"

Scrabble Games: 39 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 22; 367; 365; VITTLES, ASExUAL
Kevin WPLB: 17; 361; 364; PARTIERs

April 7, 2009

Quick and Accurate Q&A (Part 2)

On Sunday we answered our favorite ten reader questions, and today we will continue with our responses to the next tier of questions. Consider this post like the awards they give out to elementary school kids who don't really deserve recognition based on merit, but look like they need someone's sympathy.
(Zhou: Please note that Kevin wrote this paragraph. I loved all the questions equally. Just like I love Charlie and Kevin equally.)

11) If all of a sudden your passports were revoked because "someone" said you should be on a no-fly list, what would you do instead? Big US road trip? Appalachian Trail? Hike across New Jersey?

Zhou: Is this "someone" you? Because if it is, I would watch out! There is an unbearable amount of cuteness coming out to get you, in Charlie form. The adorableness will render you unable to move.

After these pictures were taken, Charlie tore one of monkey's legs off. And both of its eyes. And its shirt. Somewhere in this apartment is a three-limbed, NAKED, BLIND blue monkey. Sometimes she carries its leg around in her mouth. It's sort of endearing in a gruesome, Tim Burton-esque way.

Anyway. Back to the original question. I would cry a lot. Then I would go to New Orleans. Then I would go to Hawaii. By paddle boat. And then Alaska.

Kevin: They say that Chinese are sneaky, so I'm sure we would find a way to still make the trip work. Besides, we've already considered hiding Zhou in my carry-on luggage to save money; if this scenario were to occur we'd have to make that a reality.

If we had to come up with an alternative though, I would probably spend the next year in Vegas winning lots of money at roulette. Since I never do well there in the short term, I've decided that in the long run it's inevitable that I make good money that way - it's science.

12) Have you already planned having any strange daily or local rituals?

Kevin: Since I won't be able to follow my unique movie-viewing ritual mentioned Sunday, there are several things I'm planning on doing every day on our trip. Although not really that strange, I'm going to keep statistics on everything we do, and I'm going to take an inordinate amount of pictures of nothing in particular. I also plan on keeping my daily exercise routine (one push-up per day!) and I would like to use the restroom on a daily basis (or any spot with soft leaves). One thing that I suggested to Zhou was that we make a feature length film of our journey, but she quickly nixed that idea. If you wanted me to say I'll dress like Optimus Prime and dance in circles, then sorry to disappoint.

Zhou: No, but this question has been weighing heavily on my mind (i.e. has fleetingly crossed my mind at random moments) for the last week. I think a daily photo from wherever we are each morning would be good. Perhaps these photos would also include Mr. Turtle. Mr. Turtle is a little hematite turtle figure who lives on a platform on my bedside lamp. He recently told me he loves to travel the world. Who knew?

13) So the practice wake-up actually works?

Zhou: Neither of us can answer that question, since Kevin is a liar.

Kevin: Yes, I am a fraud. All I did was read the article, and then decide that I'm wasting my life away hitting the snooze button. So the night I read the article I went to sleep concentrating really hard on waking up without snoozing. Sure enough I did! I woke up at 4:00, 4:30 and 5:00, and every time got out of bed thinking I was on top of my game. Then I realized I was wasting my life away not sleeping through the night. So from then on, I've gotten right up with the alarm.

14) Does Kevin ever get to be little spoon during the journey?

Kevin: We have separate sleeping bags.

Zhou: Do you even realize how ridiculous that would look?

15) So you really are flying to 16 different cities on five continents for less than 3,000 bucks? Do you even realize how ridiculous that is?!

Zhou: Uh, heck yeah!

Kevin: Now that you mention it, that is a good price. If you're curious about booking a round-the-world adventure yourself, please read Zhou's previous post or email us with any questions you may have.

16) Are you nervous about not knowing any of the languages of the countries you're visiting?

Kevin: I wouldn't say nervous is the right word, but I am quite excited for countries like England and Australia, and I'm banking on Zhou's Chinese, Spanish and French skills to get us through many other countries. I definitely now wish that my high school would have made Spanish necessary and Latin optional when I went there. Other than amongst pigs, I hear Latin is a dead language now (??).

I wish I would have thought of this in question 2, but one thing I would like to take away from this trip is the knowledge of basic words in as many languages as possible. Despite my incredible diverse cultural background (I recently found out that I am a quarter German!), I consider myself pretty uncultured and would like to at least be aware of non-American lifestyles.

Zhou: We are going to deal with the way we deal with all travel quandaries - consult Steve Jobs. We will download some translator apps for the iPod Touch and learn some useful phrases. The Spanish one I have right now tells you how to say "you have lovely eyes" and "what's your star sign?" In Spanish, no less! Those are two phrases I will be using with alarming frequency.

17) Where are you most worried about survival?

Zhou: I think my worst fear is that Kevin and I will be walking along in some crowded place, when I get distracted by something (baby chickens? colorful headscarves? a Burger King? the possibilities are endless), and when I look in front of me, he's no longer there. And because I am shorter than everyone else, there's no way for me to find him. I think about this quite often. I suppose it could happen anywhere, but I mostly picture it happening in crowded marketplaces with lots of shiny and colorful distractions. You might think this is a silly thing to be worried about, but Kevin has a disconcerting habit of not noticing when I've fallen behind him to tie a shoe, or you know, get knocked out by a lamppost. He is not, how do you say... perceptive?

Kevin: I'm most worried about surviving New Jersey, in the four days after the wedding. Once we leave the States though, we have learned that our lives will be in danger everywhere we go, as mentioned in a previous post. Fortunately, we used to know a guy who was a high security prison guard, and he taught us all he knew about self-defense and self-offense. If you ask nicely, I'm sure Zhou will show you some of her moves someday.
(Zhou: This is actually all true. For real.)

18) Are you going to send trinkets home in the mail or carry them? Any souvenirs you have picked out or planned already?

Kevin: I think we'll carry as many souvenirs with us as we can, but at certain points along the trip I'm sure we will mail a few packages back home. The model we used in planning our trip, thirteenmonths.com, had a stopover back home in the middle of their adventure to drop off things and relax. While we originally wanted to do this as well, we don't have a full 13 months, and therefore had to do without a layover in America.

One thing that we want to do is come up with a common souvenir to buy in every country. I collect spinny keychains, and Zhou collects little turtles, but if you have any better ideas, please let us know.

Zhou: I think it will be really hard to collect things from everywhere we're going because we'll build up a collection of stuff pretty quickly. But this won't stop me from buying giant turtle sculptures and lugging them around. On second thought, I didn't really think that one through. I read on someone's travel blog that you can tell how long a backpacker has been on the road by how many bracelets (s)he wears. I will collect bracelets. Kevin, I don't think they will have spinny keychains everywhere. But what do I know?

19) Will you save me a bit of currency from Nepal?

Zhou: No.

Kevin: Yes, at whatever exchange we deem appropriate... thanks for asking. This gets at a good point though. Just because we are traveling the world doesn't mean we want to wall ourselves off from everyone we know. I think we mention this in just about every post, but we would love to meet up with anyone who can join us at any point along the trip. We'll also be diligently sending out postcards to the puzzle solvers (and occasionally to others we like), so let us know if you ever change addresses! In addition, Zhou loves getting emails (they make her feel special), so send us updates as well.

Zhou: It is true, I love me some emails. Also, I was just kidding about my "No" answer above.

20) What is the average air speed velocity of an unladen swallow (European swallow)?

Kevin: Since I still have my informative hat on... Although not definitive, the average cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is roughly 24 miles an hour. (Thanks)

Zhou: What on earth could a swallow possibly be laden with? I just don't get why you would have to specify unladen. Do swallows carry tiny swallow backpacks with tiny colored pencils in them to go to their tiny swallow schools? Because if so, I want one!

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Musical Body Parts Better Charger:
Sold by band
No sour bars sang cow

Scrabble Games: 36 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 20; 363; 401; SOLVInG
Kevin WPLB: 16; 364; 390; DEnIZEN, DONATER

April 5, 2009

Quirky and Awesome Q&A (Part 1)

Thanks to you all for the hundreds of questions that poured in via email, phone and Pony Express. Unfortunately, we do not have enough time to answer all of the questions, but we have selected the best and will each put on our "informative hat" (as opposed to our "humorous hat" or "chocolate milk hat") and do our best to provide you with the information that you so desperately desire.

Due to the unforeseen plethora of questions we received, we have decided to divide our responses into two posts. Luckily for you though, you will not have to wait until next Sunday to read the second half of our responses. Yes, that's right - we will be writing a very special Tuesday post this week as well. And yes, that means two puzzles for postcards.

1) What happens if you lose a Scrabble tile?

Kevin: We've decided to answer this question first because this is clearly the most important thing, and, honestly, we've yet to think this through. I'm guessing Zhou is a bit offended that this question was asked; after all, we don't ask you "what happens if you lose your baby?" or "what happens if you go bald and gain 200 pounds?" I think that if this ever were to happen, we would probably have to call off the rest of the trip and go home. Fortunately, thanks to this question we will keep this on the top of our minds and will definitely not be losing any tiles.

Zhou: At Thai Kitchen III today (my favorite place in the world), I told Kathleen and Katie that I would eat mango sticky rice EVERY DAY when we go to Thailand. Kathleen then asked, "What if mango sticky rice isn't actually Thai?" Silence followed. This thought had never occurred to me - what if mango sticky rice isn't actually Thai? So I ignored her. Do you see the connection here? Two totally inconceivable ideas! I will ignore them.

Bahamas / Charleston

2) Have you even SEEN "Twins"?

Kevin: No, I have only ever seen one movie, but I watch it every day.

Zhou: Is that the one where Arnold is pregnant and has a baby?

3) Are there any personal goals to be met along the trip (like Kevin eating a certain number of new foods or Zhou growing an inch)?

Zhou: I could not have said it better myself. Just TWO fruits, that's all I'm asking for. And really, it's not asking much, especially in relation to the number of fruits Kevin has NEVER eaten (approximately a bajillion). I mean, the man only eats red delicious apples (not granny smith, not yellow, not just plain red, but red DELICIOUS) and canned pears, which are not a true fruit, as they have been CANNED. IN SYRUP. Is it really too much to ask for the occasional orange or strawberry? Kevin, STRAWBERRIES ARE DELICIOUS!

Anyway. The question asked about personal goals, and although Kevin is my own personal project, he's not my person. One of my own personal goals is to learn to be less anxious and not worry about things that are out of my control, like flat tires or how long it takes for Kevin to write a blog post or getting eaten by a rhinoceros. I think if I can go through the entire trip without hyperventilating once, it'll be a success. I also want to take some amazing pictures with my cool new camera so when we (eventually) come back, we can decorate an apartment with them. And I would like to score 600 points by myself in a game of Scrabble.

Kevin: Who needs fruit when Skyline perfected a little piece of heaven called the chili dog? My #1 goal would be to open a Skyline franchise everywhere we'll be going, that way I will never go hungry. This seems a bit impractical, so in all honesty, one of my main goals is to become less picky about the foods I'll eat. I'm sure this won't be easy, so Zhou, don't get your hopes up just because I said I'll try. (Zhou: Awww - he wants to try! I am marrying the right guy!)

Another goal of mine is to meet as many people as possible. I've heard that you can make lasting friendships from trips like this (we will be spending 46 days in a bus on the African Serengeti with a group of random strangers), and it can never hurt to have a good set of backup long-distance friends in case your strange quirks get on your short-distance friends' nerves.

I would also like to get a bridge in Hungary named after me and have it stick. I would like to help a less fortunate stranger along the way. I would like to remember as many experiences as possible and use this knowledge to win on Jeopardy! Less ambitiously than Zhou, I would like to score 500 in Scrabble, but I would like to do it in front of the Pyramids. And most of all, I would like to find one thing that I'm better at than anyone else in the world and then do it for a living.

4) What animal are you most excited to see on the safari?

Kevin: Besides the turkey in my lunch sandwiches (fingers crossed that we eat somewhat normal food), I'm definitely looking forward to roaring with the lions, racing the cheetahs, laughing with the hyenas and tickling the giraffes. Wow, now that I think this through, I'm pretty much excited to see everything. I've never been out of North America, so anything more exotic than a white-tailed deer or a pigeon seems really awesome. However, if I had to pick just one animal, I'd go with a lion with a really long mane.

Zhou: Definitely giraffes. Giraffes are so cool with their long long necks and really long tongues. And also lions - I always had a crush on JTT. And anything baby. Baby animals are adorable and make me go "awwww!" in that high-pitched squeal-y voice that is so embarrassing (to Kevin). Except baby rhinos (see above), as they can eat you. Or gore you with their sharp sharp baby horns.

5) Without rambling on forever, what were you thinking of doing in Johannesburg?

Zhou: Whatever the good people at Acacia African Adventures have planned out for us. I'm not certain, but it probably involves eating watermelon.

Kevin: From what I've heard, we're just going to do our best to survive the one night that we will be in the city. If we had a little more time, I'd like to visit the Dave Matthews museum or the Ernie Els "What Happened to My Career?" Pit. Sorry though, we won't have much time to explore.

6) Approximately how long are you staying at each place?

Kevin: It varies from place to place, but I'd say the length of stay at each location is a direct function of two factors: price and how cool we think the place is. For example, Japan costs a crap-load (presumably because of the butt washers on the toilets) and will be downright frigid, so we'll stay there less than a week. On the other hand, Chile and Argentina are relatively inexpensive and seem pretty darn awesome, so we'll spend about a month traveling back and forth between the two.

When we originally planned the trip, we had heard to save costs it would be easiest to stay at each location for at least a couple of weeks. This way we could rent a place and do more of our own cooking. However, we decided that the world is too big a place to settle down in just ten locations, so we decided our #1 priority would be seeing as many places as we can.

Zhou: Also, we are trying NOT to do two travel days in a row. The longest we're staying in one country is probably Nepal (almost four weeks), and the shortest is Singapore (three days). We've given ourselves a couple of breaks to regroup and be lazy and catch up on the blog - like China (two weeks) and Sydney (two and a half weeks).

7) Where are you most worried about not wanting to leave?

Zhou: For me, it's Southeast Asia. I've heard so many wonderful things about Thailand and Vietnam. I'm just not sure if I'll be able to leave the clear water and sandy beaches and mounds and mounds of mango sticky rice. I am a bit worried that we're trying to squeeze in too much by doing Southeast Asia in just a month.

Kevin: I don't think it will be the safari because 46 days is already a really long time. And I've heard it won't be Easter Island, because apparently there's only about two days worth of stuff to do there. My guess is that I will want to spend more time in New Zealand - price was definitely the limiting factor there, otherwise we would have probably set aside another week. As we currently have it scheduled, we will spend a week doing things such as skydiving, paragliding and rafting, and a week walking the Milford Track, supposedly home of the most scenic views in the world. By the time we're done with these activities, we'll probably be broke and will spend most of our time on Easter Island begging for money.

8) Are you (Zhou) going to be okay with not showering every day? (Just accept it if you haven't already.) Is Kevin going to be okay with Zhou not showering every day? Is Kevin going to be okay with Zhou not shaving her legs as often?

Zhou: (1) Yes, as long as my fingernails are clean. I can't stand the feeling of dirt under my fingernails. (2) I don't shower every day already, and he still loves me, right Kev? RIGHT? (3) Kevin would love me even if I turned into a hairy beast. RIGHT KEV?

Kevin: My only criteria for choosing a round-the-world travel partner is that she showers weekly in the States, so Zhou is more than qualified. As far as the leg hair thing, a similar question was brought up in a game of "Would You Rather?" that we played one afternoon at work. "If your wife had to wear shorts and a tank top for the rest of her life, would you rather her have uncontrollable armpit hair or leg hair?" I was in the majority who thought you could blend the armpit hair in with the hair on her head, so that wouldn't be nearly as bad as the forest of leg hair. However, Zhou's leg hair grows about as fast as my facial hair (read: it doesn't grow), so I will love her regardless.

I know this wasn't part of the question, but as far as my own cleanliness, I hope to brush and floss at least every day, since the dentist said I have receding gums (and receding gums are the leading cause of death among people my age). On the shower front, I'm actually looking forward to our trip being an excuse for me not to shower.

9) What about adding New Orleans to your itinerary?

Zhou: If only!

Kevin: Not a chance. This is a round-the-world trip, and "world" clearly only refers to anywhere but North America.

10) Why are you so cute?

Zhou: My momma made me that way. Thanks mom!

Kevin: Well, my grandfather was Swedish and my grandmother was a bunny rabbit. (Anyone? Bueller?)

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Popular Song VQs From the Year 2000:

Scrabble Games: 36 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 20; 363; 401; SOLVInG
Kevin WPLB: 16; 364; 390; DEnIZEN, DONATER