Hello Kitty takes a rather inefficient trip to the United States


In the book Hello Kitty Takes a Trip, the title character travels to New York, Florida, Vermont, and Hawaii, in that order.

Now, sure, the Traveling Salesman Problem is NP-hard, but you’re not even trying.

Comments (31)
  1. Jason Warren says:

    Maybe it was a scheduling problem.

  2. pc says:

    Sometimes, getting there is half the fun!

  3. Sunil Joshi says:

    She's a Kitty – expecting command of decision maths seems a little unfair.

  4. JK says:

    Maybe in the original edition it was just New York and Florida, and in successive reprints Vermont and Hawaii were added at the end. I'm sure Hello Kitty respects backward compatibility.

  5. Bob says:

    “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

    — Mohandas Gandhi

  6. Brian_EE says:

    It rather had to do with how inefficient the airline hub and spoke system is. Like how you have to fly west from Western NY to Chicago to get to London (or south to NYC or Washington DC).

  7. Kirby FC says:

    "I'm sure Hello Kitty respects backward compatibility."

    LOL.

  8. Maurits says:

    This isn't so bsd if you assume the constraint "cats don't like cold, so visits to two cold states in succession are disallowed."

    New York => Florida => Hawaii => Vermont would have been bad, especially if she originated from (and ultimately returned to) Japan.

  9. ErikF says:

    Obviously her flight got stuck in bad weather and had to be diverted to Vermont. Come on, why else would you go there between Florida and Hawaii? :-)

  10. Gabe says:

    The traveling salesman generally concerns himself with distance, as though he were driving a car. However distance is largely irrelevant in air travel. What matters most is cost and schedule. It's entirely possible that schedules made it the fastest route (due to layovers), though it's most likely that this route was chosen because it was the cheapest.

    For example, maybe it's the off-season, so flights to/from Florida are super-cheap. It might be $300 to fly from New York to Vermont, but you can get $99 super-saver fares from New York to Florida and Florida to Vermont.

    Maybe she didn't even want to go to Vermont, but some crazy airline price war made it ridiculously cheap to go from Florida to Hawaii via Vermont, so she ended up there during an extended layover.

    [The story takes place in autumn because Hello Kitty visits Vermont to see the colorful leaves. I also like how we are hyper-analyzing the travel patterns of an imaginary kitty. -Raymond]
  11. Henke37 says:

    I wonder if she flew with Hello Kitty Air.

  12. Yuri says:

    She probably used the Hello Kitty Jet.

  13. DWalker59 says:

    @Gabe:  Right, the "Traveling Salesman" problem often omits to say WHY we are trying to find the shortest path.  I often assume that the salesman is traveling by horseback and he doesn't want to wear the horse out!  But maybe, as PC and Bob mentioned, the salesman and his horse like to see the scenery.  Maybe what the salesman wants to do is to perform only as much work as necessary to buy hay (or gasoline).  Maybe he's longing for the days when women become salesmen, or when people don't buy printed encyclopedias any more…

  14. Mrs. Whatsit says:

    Doesn't sound inefficient to me. Oh, and traveling salesman is O(1).

  15. Karellen says:

    @Mrs. Whatsit – Really? I'd have thought that generating any path at all would be O(n). And finding an optimal route with Quantum Bogosort is also still only O(n) – and that assuming you managed to complete the "exercise for the reader" for step 2 (which I would be very interested in seeing.)

  16. Maurits says:

    @Karellen: Mrs. Whatsit is a reference to "A Wrinkle In Time", en.wikipedia.org/…/A_Wrinkle_in_Time

    This is an excellent children's novel in which teleportation (or "tesseract") plays a pivotal role. Since all paths are equally ideal, the actual work involved is O(1).

  17. Brian G. says:

    With respect to the inefficiency of airlines, I recall a time my sister made a trip from a Los Angeles area airport (don't recall which one) to Dallas. It turned out to be significantly cheaper to fly to Oklahoma City (or somewhere else similarly distant) than to Dallas. The really annoying part – there was a layover for that flight in Dallas.

  18. Rick C says:

    @Brian G., it's not at all uncommon for airports an hour or so away from a major hub to be much cheaper.  Also, your sister could well have just gotten off at Dallas and not caught the second leg.  I once needed a one-way ticket somewhere but it was about 50% cheaper to buy a round-trip, so I did, and never used the second half.

  19. Gabe says:

    Rick C: I once needed to fly one-way from San Jose to Cleveland. I ended up taking a flight from San Francisco to Columbus via Cleveland and just never got on the second plane. This only worked because I was going one-way and had no checked bags.

    If you miss a flight the airline will cancel the whole rest of your itinerary, so you can only do it at the end of your trip. And if you do that regularly, they will likely start to catch on, and may refuse service.

  20. Brian G. says:

    @Rick C: What Gabe said. We looked into it, and they would have canceled her return trip if she stopped in Dallas. Similarly, the return trip wouldn't have let her skip the Oklahoma City leg and start in Dallas.

  21. GregM says:

    "And if you do that regularly, they will likely start to catch on, and may refuse service."

    Even worse, they may send you a bill for the difference between what you paid for and what you flew for all of those flights for which you didn't board the second flight in order to get a cheaper ticket.

  22. JM says:

    Maybe the trip in question had nothing to do with physical travel. Maybe Hello Kitty had a bit too much catnip.

    Hey, I know it's a children's book and all, I'm just *saying*.

  23. Engywuck says:

    DWalker: While "Traveling Salesman" often is described as "find the shortest path", it can easily be extended with a weighting function for each path (e.g. you don't want to travel gravel road when there's a not so much longer paved road). Scenery could be added to that weighting function – and would explain this Hello Kitty trip :-)

  24. Matt says:

    The travelling salesman doesn't find the "shortest path". He finds the path of shortest weight.

  25. foo says:

    Wonder how she goes in "Hello Kitty – Hello World!" http://www.goodreads.com/…/983729.Hello_World_ "Join Hello Kitty as she says "hello" to countries around the world. Greeting each nation in its native language…" (Unfortunately not a book about kitty struggling to compile and profile her first computer program)

  26. Anon says:

    Just for the record, since this is a serious discussion, her name is "Kitty White." I don't know whether that's Mrs. or Ms., however.

  27. jas88 says:

    Clearly, Hello Kitty was engaged in a Mileage Run – it seems quite common to arrange strange routes like this to get the maximum number of frequent flier miles for an itinerary. The fare rules about staying a certain number of nights always seemed bizarre and arbitrary to me; I recall one case where someone had to make two brief trips from one major city to another, about a week apart. The cheapest way was to fly A to B on day 1 with one outbound ticket, then use a second "outbound" ticket to get home to A on day 2. A week later, use the "return" leg of the second ticket to get out to B again, then come back home using the first ticket's return on day 8.

    NY-Florida-Vermont might well be cheaper as an NY-FL return, then NY-VT return and an onward flight NY-HI, rather than three one-way tickets.

  28. DWalker59 says:

    Path of shortest weight…  OK, we'll give high weights to paths with less scenery, then the entire trip will have maximum prettiness.

  29. Maurits says:

    > Hello Kitty visits Vermont to see the colorful leaves

    This purported motivation becomes suspicious when we add the information that cats cannot see colors on the low end of the spectrum: e.g., reds and browns.

  30. JK says:

    > The travelling salesman doesn't find the "shortest path". He finds the path of shortest weight.

    lightest weight, surely ;)

  31. Mike says:

    Vermont … why? If they wanted to hit stereotypical US wouldn't Texas, California or Louisiana make more sense? Cali and NY are already over hyped in pop media so if the idea was to have a non-typical look at the US both should have been avoided.

    Inefficient trip around the US: finally another nation that is failing geography.

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