Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cross-Country Ski Skills Checklist

I found a good "checklist" of skills for cross-country skiing at the Snoqualmie Nordic Center. I'll be checking off the various techniques as I learn them.

Basic Beginner

Flat Skills
  • basic diagonal stride, with poles
  • star turn
  • double pole
Uphill Skills (gentle slope)
  • diagonal stride
  • side-step
  • herringbone
  • traverse and turn
Downhill Skills (gentle slope)
  • side-step
  • straight run
  • gliding wedge
  • braking wedge
  • stop at bottom with braking wedge

Advanced Beginner

Flat Skills
  • proficient diagonal stride, with some glide
  • kick/double pole
  • kick turn
Uphill Skills (gentle slope)
  • traverse with kick turn
Downhill Skills (gentle slope)
  • steered turns with braking wedge

Intermediate Skills

Flat Skills
  • efficient diagonal stride, with good glide
  • marathon skate
  • turn in place
Uphill Skills (most terrain)
  • half herringbone
Downhill Skills (most terrain)
  • linked wedge christies
  • linked stem christies (parallel finish)
  • stop on hills in wedge (parallel finish)

Advanced Skills

Flat Skills
  • efficient and flowing diagonal stride, with good glide
Downhill Skills (all terrain)
  • linked turns in open parallel
  • linked turns in modified telemark
  • stop on hills in parallel

As you can see (as of Feb 26th), I've been focusing on gaining techniques to let me control my downhill speeds. I dislike the adrenaline I get from zooming down hills without the ability to slow down. So I already have one downhill skill in the "intermediate" category.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Cross-County Skiing Every Weekend

Since we first went cross-country skiing in January, we've gone every weekend (usually both days) since then. Excepting one weekend where Forrest and I did a Wilderss First Aid course instead, that is.

So you might say that I'm really rather enjoying cross-country skiing. :) You might also notice that I haven't, ahem, posted about my trips after that first one. My bad. I do have ski photos uploaded to Flickr, at least...

At some point, expect back-dated posts to regale you with tales from the Learning How To Ski department. :)


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Budgeting with Shared Expenses

I use Yodlee MoneyCenter to track my personal finances. Its UI isn't all that attractive, but it generally works pretty well. It automatically retrieves transactions from all my accounts, so I don't have to bother with data-entry. This is a huge plus for me; otherwise, I probably wouldn't do it at all.

But things fall apart when you want to follow a budget but you have shared expenses with someone. Say I've budgeted $200 for eating out. Yodlee can generate an "expense report" for that category, no problem. Except, what if I've only spent $100 on restaurants but my boyfriend has spent $400, half of which is my share? Then I'm clearly over budget, but Yodlee knows nothing about Forrest's accounts. Similarly, what if I've spent $300 on restaurants, but half of that is Forrest's share, so I've "really" only spent $150? Again, Yodlee has no way of dealing with this in its expense report or budgeting features.

On the other side of things, BillMonk is very useful for tracking who owes whom for shared expenses, but it has no personal finance reporting mechanisms at all (by design). So this doesn't really solve my problem either.

Enter Buxfer. As a former BillMonk employee, I feel like I'm "cheating" on BillMonk by even considering Buxfer. On the other hand, BillMonk never wanted to be a personal finance tracker, just a debt-between-friends tracker, so maybe I should let the guilt go. In any case, Buxfer does automatic transaction downloading and correctly understands how shared expenses affect budgets.

So I may be abandoning Yodlee and BillMonk in favor of Buxfer. Buxfer even has an API, so I should be able to whip up some script to take BillMonk's exported XML data and import it into Buxfer. (BillMonk almost released its API...) My group of friends still uses BillMonk, though, so I may have to write another script to keep my Buxfer account in sync with BillMonk.

I'll let you know how it goes.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

20 Finance Questions

One of the personal finance blogs I read is "I Will Teach You To Be Rich." Ramit (the blog's author) posted an interesting list a couple days ago: 20 questions that your financially unprepared friends are afraid of. Check it out.

It's really too bad talking about money is such a touchy topic; I find that I usually learn something when I talk to others about finances. But I have to judge whether it's safe to breach the topic in the first place. Frank discussions are unfortunately rare, apart from talking with my dad.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Almost-Perfect Roth IRA Contributions

The contribution limit to a Roth IRA in 2008 was $5000. I set up automatic deposits from my paycheck so than X dollars went to Vanguard, and in Vanguard I set it up to divide that single deposit into Y% to the Roth IRA and Z% to my money market fund. I started my job in February, not January, so my math had to take that into account, too — divide things by 11, not 12.

Despite these factors, I ended up with $4998.36 in my Roth IRA account at the end of 2008. That means I was only off by $1.64, and that was only because I couldn't use enough precision in the Vanguard percentages! I so win.

So I bought myself $1.64 worth of shares to round out the 2008 tax year to the complete $5000 limit. I am pleased with my spreadsheet math. :) Oh, and having saved that money is pleasing, too, of course. ;)


Learning Words via Etymologies

I'm using FlashcardDB to study Spanish vocabulary. Generally it's going pretty well, but some similar words are really tripping me up; I can't keep them straight! So, to help myself, I've researched the etymologies of the Spanish words and tried to find cognates, however distant, in English.

This works like silly mnemonics, except that I also find the etymologies themselves interesting. More work than just making up silly memorable stories, sure, but what do you expect from a lingweenie? :)

perjudicial: damaging, harmful, detrimental
From perjudicar: "Ocasionar daño o menoscabo material o moral." Looks like it's related to English injury.
precavido: cautious, prudent
From precaver: "Prevenir un riesgo, daño o peligro, para guardarse de él y evitarlo." May be related to English precaution? Think of the "v" in precavido being that Latin "u/v", so it's really precauido (but not really), which is more like precaution.
precipitado: hasty, rash
From precipitarse: "Arrojarse inconsideradamente y sin prudencia a ejecutar o decir algo." From Latin praecipitāre "to throw or cause to fall headlong," from which English precipitation comes. Rain is water falling headlong to earth, right? That hasty precipitation, has no parachute! :)

And the other set of words giving me trouble:

terco: stubborn, obstinate
The RAE has no etymology for this one. :( Think of someone being a turkey, which as "a stupid, slow, inept, or otherwise worthless person" isn't quite the same, but gets in the right ballpark of semantics, anyhow.
tosco: coarse, rough, crude, unrefined
From Vicus Tuscus, "el barrio etrusco, por alusión a la gente libertina que vivía en esta zona de Roma." So the folks on Etruscan Street were rough, crude, unrefined folks, apparently.
áspero: coarse, rough, harsh
"Insuave al tacto, por tener la superficie desigual, como la piedra o madera no pulimentada, la tela grosera, etc." Compare English asperate (which you didn't know existed): "To make rough or uneven in surface, rugged or harsh in sound, manner, etc" from the same Latin root asper. Although unrelated, think of an aspirated voice being rougher.
asqueroso: disgusting, filty, revolting
"Que causa o tiene asco." From Greek ἐσχάρα, which literally meant hearth. English scar is ultimately from the same origin as Spanish asqueroso: ἐσχάρα hearth → the mark of a burn (from said hearth) → scar the trace of a healed burn (or other wound). Scars and burns can be disgusting, right? So scars are asquerosos.

Update, 9:45 PM: It's already working for me! I just did some of the flashcards again, and this time I finally got all of them right! Wootles.

Spanish definitions and etymologies are from the Real Academia Española; the English ones are from the Oxford English Dictionary.