Tuesday, July 13, 2004

What is "this guy rocks"?

SEATTLE POST - Ken Jennings could someday become the answer to a trivia question for becoming the person with the longest winning streak on the television game show "Jeopardy!" Making his 30th straight appearance on "Jeopardy!" tonight, he pushed his winnings past the $1 million mark -- $1,004,960 to be precise.

One question must be: How does he do it? A curious mind, good memory and astute buzzer technique, said Jennings.

A Seattle native who grew up in South Korea -- his father works for an international law firm in Seoul -- Jennings watched "Jeopardy!" on the U.S. Armed Forces TV network and thought to himself, "Hey, maybe you could go on 'Jeopardy!' You're not half bad at it." After years of toying with the idea, he finally got "fed up with being wishy-washy," he said, and made a road trip to Los Angeles to audition.

Jennings knows his celebrity status will be short-lived. When it's all over, he said, he probably will cut back on his work hours at the Salt Lake City company where he works as a software engineer so that he and his wife, Mindy, can travel, probably to Europe. He plans to invest what he's won and put money aside for his 19-month-old son, Dylan, for college.

The movie buff managed to come up with the wrong answer to the question of what he'd do with his winnings the first time his wife raised it.

"She asked me what we're going to do with all the money and I told her it's all going to DVDs. I don't think she thought that was too funny," Jennings said.

A member of Brigham Young University's College Bowl team in the 1990s, Jennings writes and edits literature questions for the National Academic Quiz Tournament. "A lot of it is just God-given memory that I can't take any credit for," he said. "I've always been interested in a lot of different fields."

His love of novels -- he was an English literature major in college -- and general fascination with the world have served him well on "Jeopardy!" He also has a willingness to study. A teetotaler, Jennings read up on alcoholic drinks in anticipation of the "Potent Potables" category that can, and did, come up. He handled it easily.

"My expectations were maybe to get a few answers to show I wasn't a total dummy, so even if I was getting shut out on the buzzer I still looked like I knew a thing or two," he said. "And I would have been happy with that."

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