Training for the Presidential Traverse

In 27 days, I will be attempting to hike the Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire’s White Mountains for the second time. I tried to complete it a couple of years ago, but due to my group’s pace and injuries, we made a joint decision to turn back.

In a few weeks, Nate Damm and I will set forth from the Appalachia Trailhead off NH Route 2, leaving at around 4am. We plan to move at a quick pace for the first 8-10 hours, as we ascend, descend and ascend our way back up to the summit of Mt. Washington, the highest part of the trail.

Some facts about the hike:

  1. The 20+ mile traverse spans 7 mountain peaks, with 9,000 ft. of elevation gain
  2. The suggested book time to complete the traverse is just over 16 hours
  3. The route is famous for its tumultuous weather and sometimes dangerous conditions
From my friend Yoav’s recent trip report:
As SummitPost says, “The Presidential Traverse is arguably the most spectacular and challenging one-day hike in the Northeast. Unquestionably, it passes over the highest peak in the Northeast, as well as the second, the third, the fourth, and the fifth, a couple of sub-peaks that are just as high, and a couple of “smaller” peaks that are still among the fifty highest in New Hampshire.”

Sounds fun, right?

I’m using the next three weeks to kick up training.

Sporcle, Einstein’s Riddle and the World’s Hardest Sudoku Puzzle

I recently read Moonwalking with Einstein.

In this non-fiction book, the author, Joshua Foer, is on assignment, writing a journalistic piece on the U.S. Memory Championship. When Foer learned that most of the people competing were not in fact geniuses but average folks like himself, he wanted to learn more.

Soon, Foer finds himself among a quirky subculture of mental athletes. Foer learns how to memorize decks of cards, faces and poems through a series of mnemonic techniques.

Long story short — he adapts these practices and wins the U.S. competition less than a year later.

Tackling My Own Mind

This book got me thinking.

While I’m not particularly interested in memorizing decks of cards or long poems, I’m very passionate about expanding the capacity of my own mental bandwidth. I love reading about nootropics, solving puzzles and figuring out ways to think faster and more effectively. Where can I improve?

As we hit the gym to get our heart rate going, so too should we flex our mental muscles and workout the brain. Below are three mental workouts. If you complete them, let me know in the comments!

1. Being able to name all countries of the world.

You can use Sporcle to practice memorizing. Over the course of a couple weeks, I probably spent 5 hours practicing. I then whipped out my camera. It still took 6 tries to get it right.

2. Solving the Zebra Puzzle.

It is said that Einstein created this puzzle as a boy, and that only 2% of the population can solve it. This took around 45 minutes to work out. Can you solve it?

Let us assume that there are five houses of different colors next to each other on the same road. In each house lives a man of a different nationality. Every man has his favorite drink, his favorite brand of cigarettes, and keeps pets of a particular kind.

  1. The British person lives in the red house.
  2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
  3. The Dane drinks tea.
  4. The green house is on the left of the white house.
  5. The green homeowner drinks coffee.
  6. The man who smokes Pall Mall keeps birds.
  7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill.
  8. The man living in the center house drinks milk.
  9. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
  10. The man who smokes Blend lives next to the one who keeps cats.
  11. The man who keeps the horse lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
  12. The man who smokes Bluemaster drinks beer.
  13. The German smokes Prince.
  14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
  15. The man who smokes Blend has a neighbor who drinks water.

The question is, Who owns the fish?

3. Solving the world’s hardest Sudoku puzzle.

Deemed the Everest of numerical games, this particular Sudoku arrangement was designed Arto Inkala, a Finnish mathematician. I don’t quite remember how long it took me to solve this. I spent 3 or 4 days picking it up and putting it down. I love Sudoku puzzles and do them frequently.

Do you do have any challenges like this? What would you recommend?

My 3 Favorite Emails from The Listserve

I learned about The Listserve from Yoav Shapira, a former co-worker (and adventure-racing friend) of mine.

The Listserve is a growing email list of 20,000+ readers. Each day, one of the subscribers from the list is randomly chosen and wins the opportunity to write an email to the list. It’s a social experiment that I’ve been happy to be a part of the last two months. While I have not yet won the opportunity to write an email to 20,000+ people, I’ve enjoyed the many emails from around the world that are sent to my inbox each day.

Here are 3 of my favorite Listserve emails:

Email 1: David Evans

I’m going to tell you about an inspirational person. He loved to push himself to the limits, the sports he loved were always ones where he could use his brain, expeditions, climbing, bouldering, kayaking, orienteering, he maintained his nerdy ways.

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression that he was really intelligent there was that one time we drove all the way to a festival for the day, he got out the car and realised he had no shoes on ‘Oh shit got no shoes on, we’ll have to go back’, that was kind of stupid.

He did use his intelligence to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering and teach children Kayaking and climbing, but I liked to remind him of the stupid moments more than these.

His determination and complete love of life led him in so many directions, being a DJ, learning to fly a plane, and all the while he wanted to better himself. He came back from India and wanted to learn so much about spirituality, religion and philosophy, he had a desire to know why we were here.

He always wanted more, more adventure, more knowledge, more achievement.

You would never guess this on a night in Liverpool when he would turn into the craziest party animal. One night, he was dressed up as a paramedic for a fancy dress party, ordered a pint of Red Bull and a pint of vodka, dancing the night away to techno taking a gulp from each one in turn.

I could spend hours telling you about his life but put simply he was just so nice, and kind and hilarious, someone everyone of you would love to have as a friend.

David Evans is my older brother, he died 1 July 2011 in Chamonix, France in a climbing accident. He was 24 but lived such a meaningful life that inspires me everyday to live my life through and for him.

David’s advice would be what his tattoo said, he would tell every single one of you with a huge smile on his face and in his deep scouse accent ‘Learn from yesterday, live for today’.

And If I could tell him one thing I would answer his question of why he was here, I’d say that he was here to infect so many lives with the love, determination and inspiration that guided his.

Rachael Evans
London, England

Email 2: Intelligence & How to Get It

You are what you know.

A contemporary view of intelligence finds that it is the sum of two factors:

G(f) is fluid intelligence- the size of your working memory, how ‘fast you think’ etc.

G(c) is concrete intelligence- a measure of how much factual information you have acquired.

Learning more information then is the key to greater intelligence.

Hart and Risley (1995) found that children in non-working households heard, on average, 616 words per hour, while children from professional families heard 2153. By the age of three this totaled a difference of 30 million words. Less well off children are exposed to fewer concepts- and develop less concrete intelligence.

Research into memory and cognitive neuroscience has soundly shown that the learning of new material is much more efficient if you already know a body of linked material.

Eric Hanushek’s work suggests that a good teacher can get 1.5 years of learning growth in one year, a bad teacher 0.5. The consequences of a bad teacher for a number of years in a row can be devastating. Note that many of our most challenging schools struggle to attract good teachers.

Finally, we know which classroom practices most enhance learning and achievement. We have a well-developed science of learning- but you’ll have to look very hard to find proof of this in our schools. It’s long overdue that schools, classrooms and teachers applied what works, and the folk pedagogy and traditions that guide our educational institutions were replaced by evidence-driven practice.

Dr Mark Evans
Norwich, UK

Email 3: Little Kid

As a college student/intern/tutor/babysitter/freelance writer figuring out what I want to do with my life, I wouldn’t be where I am now without the help of some amazing people who helped me early on in my career.  They could have easily ignored me and dismissed me as a “little kid,” but instead, they took me under their wing and gave me work experience, guidance, and time that I will always value.

Thank you to the editor of the Town Journal in Ridgewood, NJ.  At 14, I sent you my book report on the Odyssey as well as suggested that I become the paper’s next book reviewer.  You didn’t laugh, but invited me into your office for a meeting, where you offered me the position.  I was elated.  You worked with me through awful draft after awful draft peppered with nonsensical words from the thesaurus because I thought they sounded fancy (and New York Times-esque).  You sent me long e-mails full of suggestions about how to improve my writing, and I took each one to heart.  I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to work with me and allowing me to pursue what I thought was merely a dream.

Thank you to Kate Jackson of HarperCollins Publishers.  After I wrote an article in the Town Journal about my disdain for teen books, she wrote an editorial in response.  I then asked if we could meet and discuss our differing opinions on teen literature, and she agreed.  When we met, she offered me a summer internship at the company in the children’s editorial department.  Kate and the team I worked with that summer were incredible, and it made me realize that writing will always be a part of my life.

My point here is that if you’re young, don’t be afraid to do what you love.  I used to think that I had to be of a certain age to accomplish certain things, but I don’t think that way any longer.  Age isn’t a barrier to accomplishments, and it doesn’t define who you are.  Always strive to achieve, no matter how old you are.

Julia Lynch
New York, NY

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Wahoo! I’m Back!

After taking a 10-month hiatus from the blogosphere, I’m happy to be back.

To be honest, I am not fully sure why I stopped writing. Maybe it was my new job. Or maybe it was because I felt like I had pigeonholed myself into a particular series of blog posts on The 9 to 5 Alternative. Or maybe, because I was no longer romping the globe as a cost-of-living analyst, I lost the spunk to sit down and crank out a few words.

Maybe. Maybe that was it.

Regardless, I missed writing. I missed the community of 500+ subscribers. The comments and emails. Meeting new people. Sharing and receiving stories, business ideas and images.

I believe in synchronicity, or meaningful coincidences. About a month ago, two events happened within the same week that made me realize I needed to write again. They were small experiences, but something clicked.

First, I received an email from Jeffrey Cammack of Safari Guide Africa. I had never met Jeff before. The email, titled “Keep writing,” included the following, and only the following:

Just found your blog, and appreciated the read.  I saw you have not updated for about a year, so wanted to give you the encouragement to get writing again.

Jeff, you’re the man. I really appreciate you reaching out.

Secondly, I was publicly called out on a well-read blog, The Tropical MBA, a blog that I’ve been a huge fan of the last couple of years. I didn’t even know I was on this guy’s radar, which made the mention more surprising.

So, I kicked myself in the ass, took a cold shower, hopped back on the proverbial blogging horse and created a brand, spanking new website:

It’s still new and needs some work, but after a month of tinkering I was ready-enough to hit the publish button.

So here I am, clicking publish. Look forward to seeing you all again.

In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter or Linkedin. You can also subscribe to my new updates via RSS or email.

Ode to the Urban World: 8 Cities. 8 Images.

I’ve always been more of a nature guy.

Mentally drawn to lush, distant valleys and high-altitude passes, I often yearn for the natural aesthetic—for green, for calm, for walking and camping and simple living. Sometimes at night, I look upwards and imagine an unpolluted sky—brightly dotted with the periodic streak of a shooting star. When was the last time I saw the Milky Way?

Living in a city though, despite its artificial light, is fascinating. Vibrant, bustling with its own particular nuances and collective personality. Similar to Mother Earth and her palpable energy, urbanism evokes its own tangible power.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been putting together a photography portfolio, hosted on one of my favorite domain names, I built the site to organize and showcase the many images I’ve been so fortunate to capture in my travels. Like this blog, Photobunga is more of a personal endeavor—somewhere to document memories and to reflect. That said, all of the images are for sale, so if you’re interested, let me know!

Paying homage to the urban world, here are eight of my favorite city shots:

Sydney Australia Sepia

Sydney, Australia | May 2010
Taken from the Royal Botanic Gardens, which cover 30 hectares and contain 7500 species of plants from all over the world, this image presents Sydney’s impressive cityscape. It was raining that afternoon, and to conquer the flat light I shot this image in sepia.

Baku Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan | November 2008
The capital and largest city in Azerbaijan, Baku is a port city that is experiencing a resurging oil economy, and with that, a lot of construction. I took this image from the top of the Park Inn hotel, on the balcony outside of the Mirvari Club, a sushi restaurant.

Rio de Janeiro Brazil Sugarloaf

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | February 2011
Rio de Janeiro is, in a word, breathtaking. With it’s beautiful geography and people, it’s a true photographer’s playground. I took this picture from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, a granite and quartz behemoth that juts up from the city. I believe this cable car was featured in a James Bond movie?

Astana Kazakhstan Bayterek

Astana, Kazakhstan | November 2009
The top of Bayterek, a monument and observation tower, offers a 360-degree view of Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital and second largest city. These days, the Soviet-era buildings are now being removed and replaced with new structures–President Nazarbayev has paid particular attention to Astana’s aesthetic, with internationally acclaimed architects and designers being brought in to redesign the city.

Minsk Belarus

Minsk, Belarus | May 2009
With its wide, lick-ably clean streets and monolithic Soviet facades, Minsk represents the grandiose aesthetic of Stalin’s massive post-war rebuilding. Things I remember about Minsk: stiletto heels, supermodels and surprisingly good Indian food. Yummy.

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | November 2010
Taken from the Petronas Towers, the tallest building in the world from 1998 to 2004, this image showcases Kuala Lumpur’s urban core. Limited to 1000 tourists per day, the skybridge is definitely worth waking up early for. I waited in line for 1.5 hours to get tickets!

Luanda Angola

Luanda, Angola | August 2010
While this is not a particularly impressive photograph, I decided to include it due to Luanda’s unique situation. Not only is it the most expensive city in the world for foreign workers, or expatriates, it’s undergoing massive reconstruction efforts that will significantly alter its cityscape over the next few years. My time in Luanda was chaotic–the traffic was remarkable abysmal–but I enjoyed the novelty of being there.

Seoul South Korea

Seoul, South Korea | May 2011
I love Seoul. I was fortunate enough to experience the city during a festival–the Han River pictured above, which bisects the city East to West, was full of art installations that made for a fun walk. With it’s many neighborhoods, amazing food and nightlife, Seoul is a must-visit if you’re taking a trip to Asia.