Sunday, December 31, 2006


  Posted by Picasa   I've booked a week of skiing in France this winter! My usual winter exercise program - a combination of weight lifting and rowing - doesn't seem to give me the conditioning that I need to be prepared for hours of skiing.

So I went out and got a step platform and a couple of 5-lb ankle weights. I'd thought about getting one of those platforms to do dumbbell step-ups properly, but the idea of spending $50 on what is more or less a glorified piece of plastic really burns.

Well, I'm glad I finally broke down and bought one. The thing is solid, with a bigger stepping area than the makeshift platform I've been using (a fire-safe security chest, if you must know). And it's adjustable, so I can increase the height to hit my legs in different ways. I did a 30 minute workout today with the ankle weights on, and my legs really feel it.

I have to think about setting a goal so I get a decent amount of conditioning before my trip, which is less than two months away. With this new routine, I should go into it better prepared than I usually do.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Saving for College in Connecticut

I've got two nieces, my brother's kids. When they were first born, I gave them toys for their birthdays and Christmas. I quickly realized that these kids were getting so many toys that they had no idea what to do with it all. What do I mean by "so many toys"? Well, ten times more than I ever got as a kid!

I didn't like the idea of wasting money on toys that are quickly discarded; I never even knew whether the kids would play with the toys I sent because I don't visit them very often. At the same time, I remember that when I was a kid, especially as I grew older, I envied the kids whose relatives had given them gifts of savings bonds.

So I quickly switched over to giving my nieces savings bonds year after year, for birthdays and Christmas. Kind of a stodgy gift, but I think they'll like it when the bonds reach maturity.

A couple of years ago, I decided contributing to a college fund for the kids made sense. I could "afford" it, and it bothered me that my brother had not set up a college savings fund of some sort. I opened a Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) account for each of my nieces. It's a 529 college savings plan. I intend to contribute to the accounts every year, as long as I can, until my nieces go to college (assuming they go; the beauty of CHET is that if the current beneficiary never goes to college, you can reset the beneficiary to someone else).

Up until this year, the only tax advantage to a CHET account is that the gains grow tax-deferred, and earnings that go to pay for higher education are tax-free. Nice.

This year, Connecticut gives people a bigger incentive to save - they made contributions to CHET accounts tax deductible. So you may be able to deduct contributions to CHET accounts (I'm assuming this only applies if you itemize your deductions, which only makes sense if your itemized deductions add up to more than the standard deduction).

Now the really great thing is that my brother opened a CHET account for each of my nieces this year - yesterday, in fact! I like to think it was due to my good example, but I suspect it was the tax deduction that got him there!

Sunday, December 24, 2006


I finished the 2006 Concept 2 Holiday Challenge, today! Yes!! Now I'm going to go see about ordering the t-shirt...

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

You vs the billionaire - NY Times article by Peter Singer

Via Piaw: Peter Singer is back in the NY Times, discussing charitable giving. This article is better than his previous one, The Singer Solution to World Poverty, because it is a little less theoretical and a little more practical in nature. I hope Singer continues to pursue these topics and that people pay attention to what he says.

On a side note, this article introduced me to Zell Kravinsky, apparently a remarkable philanthropist and extraordinary human being. Strangely, I'd never heard of the man before.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I hit a bump in the road on the way to the 200K Honor Board. Last week I came down with a terrible stomach virus that put me out of action for almost the entire week. I couldn't eat for a few days, and still feel pretty weak from it.

But I'm back in the saddle, and I should still meet the Challenge. I started rowing again yesterday, a slow 3K, and did another 7K today. Fourteen days to do another 90K. Piece of cake. I should still be able to hit the full 200K by Christmas, provided there are no further hiccups.