Saturday, April 30, 2011

this is nuts

The funds keep rolling in.

Stafford has sent a generous sum to my PayPal account. Humble thanks, man.

Not to be outdone by anyone, my buddy Tom, in Seoul like Stafford, has sent me $150 via PayPal, putting my total at $464.12. Again, without any fundraising action of my own, I now find myself more than halfway to my goal of $800 to be able to file for IRS exemption.

My thanks to both of you.


waiting to be used

These are the ketone strips I'll be using to measure my progress while on Atkins. No, I will not be blogging their actual use. As you see, they're made to be peed upon.


that to which I say goodbye

Here are some of things I must part with in order to do the Atkins Diet correctly:

First, we've got jjajang-myeon inspired by Hahna's recent post:

Next, we've got this bastardized Thai-esque chicken and shrimp concoction that would make any self-respecting Thai mad as hell:

Finally, there's the charoset I made:

I wipe away a tear.


false start

I was supposed to start the two-week induction phase of the Atkins Diet this past Monday.

And I did.

But I lasted only one day.

Strangely, this wasn't about lack of resolve. My first day on the diet actually came as something of a relief from the previous carb-bingeing, and I would have been glad to continue dieting.

Here's the problem: I realized, upon waking on Tuesday morning, that I still had a fridge full of perishable items that wouldn't survive either two weeks in the fridge or an indefinite period in the freezer. Rather than throw everything out, I thought it best to deal with les restes in the best way I knew how.

I'm not talking about leftovers like half-empty jars of peanut butter or zip-topped bags of raisins. Those items can be closed and stored, and they'll still be fine after two weeks. No: I'm talking about food like the leftover jjajang-myeon I had, or the leftover Thai(-ish) chicken and shrimp I'd made, or the gallon of milk sitting innocently on the fridge's bottom shelf. Freezing jjajang-myeon sauce or fresh-made Thai(-style) pasta toppers would have led to the ruin of both, and leaving both in the fridge for two weeks would have led to an even darker scenario.

So I've spent the week since Tuesday eating these things up, and while that slaughter has been going on, I've remembered that May 4th and May 8th are important dates for our family: Mom's birthday and Mother's Day, respectively. Right now, it seems better to wait until after May 8 to start the two-week induction: I've got no special occasions to honor between May 8 and May 22. If induction proves effective, I'll continue with the next phase of the diet. That, or I'll reintroduce a moderate amount of carbs and start exercising in earnest (you're not supposed to exercise during induction).

The false start is still my fault, of course: I shouldn't have begun the diet without having been fully prepared. On May 9, I will be.

In other news: I'm beginning to think that a September start date for the cross-country walk is too soon. It's also bad timing, because unless I decide on a southern route across the country, I'll be walking right into the teeth of winter in the Plains states.


thanks, Staf!

Many thanks to Stafford for his contribution to the cause! My PayPal account now reads $314.12.


Friday, April 29, 2011

setting things in motion

As you know, I'm trying to recruit volunteers to help out with the upcoming walk's planning, fundraising, etc. One of my projects last weekend was the creation of a flier to distribute among high school students who regularly attend one of the tutoring centers where I work. That particular branch of my company is located across the street from W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia. Most of the high schoolers I tutor come from Woodson, in fact, and I'm hoping to rope some in.

Today, I contacted Woodson about the possibility of using one of their rooms for one or more meetings, and was transferred to the office of Mr. John Kenny, an activities director. He asked that I send him an email detailing my needs; I sent that off almost an hour ago, along with the MS Word version of the flier I've given to a few students. Because I sent it near the end of the school day, I don't expect to hear from him until early next week.

Meanwhile, I'm planning to impose-- gently-- on my colleagues at both of the branches where I teach, to ask them to distribute these fliers to their high schoolers (in fact, I've already approached two fellow teachers about this). I have no idea how many people might show up to the first meeting, which I've set for Friday, May 20, at 8PM, but I'm hoping that we have at least twenty.

Here's the text of the flier. Front side:

WOULD YOU LIKE TO VOLUNTEER? [Changed from "Thank you for reading this," which is on 40 copies of the first version of the flier.]

WHO: Kevin (C2 tutor, Centreville and Fairfax) and a group of committed volunteers—primarily high school students and any interested C2 faculty/staff

WHAT: Meeting to begin to discuss planning and preparation for a large-scale personal project: a walk across the Lower 48

WHEN: Friday evening, May 20, 2011, at about 8PM (details to follow)

WHERE: W.T. Woodson High School (specific room to be determined)

WHY: Cross-country walk on behalf of victims of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer

HOW: The “how” of this project is precisely what we’ll be discussing. Topics for the first meeting (which might run anywhere from 1 to 2 hours) will include:

-deciding on a walking route (very likely the American Discovery Trail, or “ADT”)

-deciding on a start date for the walk (either September this year, or early next year)

-discussing local fundraising opportunities and strategies

-discussing PR/marketing to raise awareness about the walk along the walk’s route

Can we make this happen? Would you be interested in helping out? If so, please read the other side for more details and RSVP as soon as possible to the following email address:

And now the flier's back page, which is much more detailed:

Greetings! Thank you for picking up this flyer, despite not knowing what it might be about. Long story short: I’m looking for volunteers who would be willing to help me with a massive personal project.

A bit of background:
On April 16, 2009, two days before I was to return to a cross-country walk that began in 2008 (I managed to walk about 600 miles as part of a personal exploration of American religious diversity), my mother exhibited symptoms of severe cognitive impairment. At first, we thought this might have been a stroke, and we took her to the ER. What we discovered, instead, was a significant mass on the surface of her left frontal lobe. This turned out to be glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the same sort of brain cancer that eventually killed Senator Ted Kennedy. For patients over 60, the prognosis is grim. Most GBM victims die within 11-13 months of diagnosis. An exceedingly small number of people manage to defy the statistics and live longer than two years; a very small handful of people has managed to survive 10-15 years with no recurrence of GBM after treatment. Senator Kennedy survived fifteen months post-diagnosis—two months beyond the upper threshold. My mother, unfortunately, died nine months after her diagnosis—two months under the lower threshold. She passed away on January 6, 2010, at 8:03AM.

That was how 2010 began for me and my family: with the death of my mother. Over the next several months, I remained at my parents’ house to help my father complete a renovation project that began before Mom’s cancer, and which was put aside during her illness. I moved out to my own place in November, having gotten a job as a TOEFL essay rater for ETS (the same company that makes the dreaded SAT, AP, etc. exams). This job lasted only a few months due to the “low season” for TOEFL testers; I switched to C2 this past March, and have enjoyed making the acquaintance of so many bright students and fellow tutors.

What I’m doing now:
I’m hoping to return to my trans-American walk—the walk that ended after only 600 miles in the fall of 2008. This time, however, I plan to walk on behalf of all past, present, and future victims of GBM, in an effort to raise money and awareness for GBM research. At the moment, I’m somewhat torn as to the start time for the walk. For personal reasons, I’d prefer to begin it this coming September, but I’m beginning to think it would be more practical to begin it early next year.

What I need from you, if you’re willing:
A project of this scale can’t be realized without help from all corners. A lot has to be done: route planning, equipment prep, PR, lodging arrangements, research into terrain and weather, etc. I need a team of committed volunteers who might be willing to help me with these tasks. Walking across the country means walking somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 to over 4,000 miles, depending on the route. I’m seriously considering using the American Discovery Trail, which is the only officially walkable route across the mainland United States. The trail has advantages and disadvantages; these need to be considered before I can finalize my itinerary. Discussing these things as a group would be a great help to me. (NB: students who need to fulfill community service requirements could probably use this project to do so!)

How this all begins:
I teach at the Fairfax branch of C2 on Wednesdays. The Fairfax branch is right across the street from Woodson High School, and I’m going to speak with the high school’s main office about the possibility of reserving a classroom—preferably one that allows for multimedia presentations and chalkboard/white board work—for a group of us to meet semi-regularly. So here’s the question: would you be willing to help me with this crazy project? If you are, please RSVP to this invitation by emailing me at If you’re a student (or, hey, even if you’re a colleague of mine), feel free to include your parents. Their help would be appreciated. I haven’t fixed a meeting date and time yet, but as I wrote, I’d like us to meet at Woodson High School. As for the meeting date, it would be in late May: Friday evening, May 20, probably around 8PM, to give most people time for dinner. If you email me with your RSVP, I’ll be able to email you back with more specific information as the meeting day nears.

High school seniors, who are graduating soon and will be prepping for college, will have to consider their summer schedules before RSVP-ing. So will everyone else (people travel during the summer), but in truth, the state of technology is such that we can all keep in touch from practically anywhere on the planet. In fact, I’m probably going to be making extensive use of my smart phone’s GPS and email/Skype/Twitter capabilities during the walk.

Pertinent websites and contact info:
My blog, Kevin’s Walk, was originally about the 2008 religious diversity walk. When I came back home, the blog switched gears to reflect the fact that I was recuperating from my knee injury and was writing about whatever came to mind—academic topics, sci-fi, books, and slices of life. In April of 2009, the blog shifted emphasis as I began to chronicle our family’s struggle with brain cancer. I did this in part to keep friends and relatives informed of what was going on with Mom, and in part because I felt it was my duty to remember this harrowing time in our lives. The blog is located at: I also maintain a Twitter feed at

If you, Dear Reader, happen to be local to Fairfax County and would like to be a part of this effort, please think about attending the May 20 meeting and send me your RSVP ( I'll be creating a mailing list and emailing everyone with the particulars once I find out the specific room we'll be using.

Also note that there's a chance that Woodson might not be able to provide a meeting space for that evening. If that happens, we'll switch gears and meet at a fallback location in the same general area. I'm anticipating about 20 to 35 people showing up, but would be delighted to see a crowd of 100 or more... although that might mean changing venues. Anyway, please RSVP within the next two weeks so that I have a ballpark notion of how many attendees to expect. Thanks in advance!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

..and now it's $300

Many thanks to Bolt, who added another $100 to my PayPal funds. I'm floored. Funds now stand at $290.40 (PayPal shaves off a small percentage of every transaction; this is how they make money), putting me only $510 away from my initial goal of $800. I may be filing that IRS exemption paperwork sooner than expected.

Again, if you're within driving distance of DC and would like to engage me as a speaker on GBM-related patient advocacy, you can do so. Email me first to find out about available dates, then click over to the eBay ad and purchase an "event." Thanks in advance!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

a second contributor!

Many and humble thanks to friend and reader Brat for her $100 contribution to the cause! Man... I haven't even launched the speaking circuit yet, and I'm already getting donations. That's amazing.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

lessons learned #5: hotels and motels as a last resort

I had to stop my 2008 walk for three major reasons, all of which converged like a perfect storm. First, there was my injury, a stupid and preventable fall that occurred early in my walk, and which worsened over the next 300 or 400 miles. Second, as I tracked my own progress, I began to realize that I was going to hit the Rockies at exactly the worst time of year: my timing had been poor. Third, there was the money problem. It's not as though I was pissing away my funds on gambling and frippery; I was simply doing what any normal human being does: eating, resupplying, and sleeping. Unfortunately, when you're out on the road, these three activities cost a bit of money.

One of the ways in which I tried to stem the financial drainage was by using a service called CouchSurfing. The website,, is modeled after a dating website in that it tries to match a traveler with people who would be willing to host him for a time-- all for free. A traveler builds a profile on the site, talks about his interests and some of his travel experiences, notes his itinerary, then connects with people along his travel path who are also members of the site-- people with an empty couch on which a tired rover can spend a night or two before moving on. The subtext of all this is-- again, like a dating site-- social networking. You're crafting a web of friends and acquaintances, sharing experiences, seeing new sights and eating new meals.

CouchSurfing wasn't my own discovery; it was suggested to me by a number of people, and overall, it turned out to be a very good way to save money while traveling. The problem, though, is that most of the available couches are located in larger towns and cities. Once you're out in the boonies, CouchSurfing isn't nearly as easy.

What, then, are the alternatives?

One would be camping. I camped in quite a few state parks, especially while moving down the western spine of Washington State. None of these places was free, however, although they were all cheap alternatives to paid lodging, i.e., hotels and motels. I was afraid to camp on people's property: I saw signs that said "PRIVATE PROPERTY! KEEP OUT!" and even "PUBLIC PROPERTY! KEEP OUT!" We live in an era where just about every square inch of ground is spoken for, and unlike other America-crossers, I wasn't willing to risk arrest by plopping down just anywhere.

Well, that's not entirely true. I did spend two or three days camping out at Exit 151 along I-84 in Oregon. I'm pretty sure it was PUBLIC PROPERTY, but it was also obviously a campground for fishermen, and there was no management office to which to pay a camp fee. I simply plunked my tent down there and rested my knee in the heat (see here). I didn't feel so guilty about potentially illegal camping when I was out in the boonies.

The problem with using hotels and motels is that you're nickeled and dimed to death over the long haul: thirty dollars here, fifty dollars there... it quickly adds up, and without any donations rolling in on a regular basis, the whole enterprise quickly becomes unworkable.

My feeling now is that I'll need to change a few things about my walking strategy-- and my personal outlook-- if I plan to use only a minimum of money during this walk. First, I have to be more willing to knock on random doors, if need be, to ask for a place to set up my tent or bivy sac. In 2008, I walked right through most suburbs (and past many farms) without ever trying that approach, despite its having been suggested by several blog commenters. Second, I may need to rethink my absolutism when it comes to setting up camp in a potentially illegal area. I'm not talking about the boonies, here: I'm talking about PRIVATE PROPERTY and PUBLIC PROPERTY in urban or suburban areas. Third, I need to continue with the CouchSurfing (CS). That was one of the absolute best ways of moving across the country. CS opportunities may be few and far between should I decide to hike the American Discovery trail, but (1) I'll at least be able to camp along much of the trail, and (2) the ADT does, in fact, run through many towns and cities, which means CS won't be irrelevant.

Even with the above shift in thinking, parks remain something of an anomaly. There are, for example, some national parks that charge visitors who arrive by car, but leave hikers alone, whereas other parks charge a "hiker/biker fee" to human-powered travelers. I may not have much choice as to whether I have to pay.

When I step back and take a larger view of this enterprise, I don't see that I'll be able to design a walk in which I pay for nothing. That's not a realistic strategy. Even if I minimize costs, I'm going to have to buy crucial items for my survival-- food, season-appropriate outdoor clothing and equipment, etc. So I suppose we should add a fourth change to the other three: an income stream. Asking for donations can only work if one markets well and aggressively; I hope to do a better job of that this time. But along with donations, I'd like to be able to earn income of my own-- and that's where the speaking engagements come in. Right now, I've got them pegged to eBay/PayPal, where the funds can be transferred either to my bank account or to the future 501(c)(3) account. I have a feeling that, if the lecture circuit idea catches on, it's something I could pursue even after the walk is done.

As for those hotels and motels-- well, they're still a possibility, but only as an absolute last resort. I need to exhaust all non-paying and minimal-paying possibilities first.


Monday, April 25, 2011

many thanks! $100 closer!

Many thanks to A Reader Who Shall Remain Nameless for plunking down $100 in my PayPal account, putting me that much closer to my goal of $800 to fill out the IRS exemption status paperwork. This means a lot.

(In case anyone is wondering where I'm getting this $800 figure from, see Wikipedia here, the section titled "Obtaining Status." Strangely, the site has a PowerPoint presentation on the subject, but it's a few years out of date and shows a figure of $700-something.)


now offering a GBM seminar in the DC-Metro area

It's been a while since I've posted anything here. Sorry about that; it was a busy weekend.

One of my projects this past weekend was to create an eBay ad for a lecture circuit as part of my effort to (1) raise money for my trans-American walk, and (2) raise money for GBM research. First things first, though: I need $800 just to be able to file the paperwork for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This situation puts the cart before the horse-- I need to raise funds before I can raise funds-- but as they say, it takes money to make money.

So: if you're in driving distance of the DC area, have $300 on hand for a lecture fee (this can be collected), and you've got the facilities for a lecture, please visit this eBay entry, read it, and consider helping me out. The first three lectures will defray the cost of the IRS procedure; after that, the money will go into the 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

This, folks, is one of the reasons why I asked my bosses at my current job to give me three-day weekends. I have Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays available for just this sort of work. If I could do three lectures in a single weekend, I'd leap the IRS obstacle right away, and whatever money I make after that could go straight into that fund.