Tag: donations

More spring cleaning

I slept in this morning, not getting out of bed until just after 9 AM. I ran up to IHOP for breakfast, stopping at Petco on the way home because I needed more litter and dry food for Zeke. Once home, I did some more spring cleaning. I cleaned out old files in the office, shredding 4 bags worth of documents I no longer need. I also cleaned, dusted and in general tidied up the office. I scrubbed the kitchen as well, sweeping and mopping; I mopped the bathroom while I was at it. I’m in the process of finishing up the laundry.

I had mentioned my support of libraries yesterday and in cleaning off my desk today, I found the most recent Adopt-a-library renewal, that I hadn’t yet sent out, so today I mailed off a check, renewing my support of both the Franklin Township and Granada Hills libraries. I also paid the T-Mobile and Comcast bills while I was at it.

I’m 268 pages into In Memory Yet Green and as usual when I read these books, the desire to write is growing stronger. I have to get back on the workout wagon this week, and I’m planning on being up at 4:20 AM in order to be at the gym before 6 AM and get back to my early workout routine, which worked best for me. But I’m gradually watching less and less TV in the evenings, and once this season is over, I think I’m done with TV for a while. That leaves me more time in the evenings for writing, if I can summon up the discipline.

Mail call

Some interesting mail today. I got two of the books I ordered, including Barry Malzberg’s Breakfast in the Ruins, which turns out to be The Engines of the Night, expanded to twice it’s original length. That’s fine since, although I’ve read Engines of the Night twice before, it is one of those rare books which receives 5-stars from me. I look forward to reading what has been added.

I got my temporary AARP card in the mail today and that sounds like a joke, but unless someone put my name in for me, it is no joke. The accompanying letter indicated that I am eligible to join the AARP and all I have to do is mail in a check for $25. Granted I have reached mid-life. But I have by no means retired! I’ll send them $25 once I retire. (Of course, by then, I’ll need to send in $250, what with inflation.)

I received the June issue of ASIMOV’S today as well.

There was an email from my tax preparer with several questions she needs answers to in order to complete my returns. For instance, while I had $650 in charitable donations last year, I listed none this year. Did I forget to include them? The truth is, no. I’m embarrassed to say that my donations this year fell far short of my goal. Mostly out of laziness too. I donated small sums here and there, but nothing worth reporting. I feel guilty about having to respond in the negative to this. My feeling is that I should be donating more and more each year. Over time, I’d like to be donating about 10% of my income to charity, but I took a step backwards in 2006 and will work to correct it this year. (What’s worse, my income went up, and I bought lots of stuff that wastes my time and contributes little else to my life–the money would have been much better spend on various charities.)

The other question was about any writing expenses I incurred in 2006. I feel that now that I have sold a story, I can legitimately write off some of my writing expenses as business expenses, but to be honest, those expenses are minimal. There is the cost of paper, which I would purchase even if I didn’t write. And there is postage which, while it adds up, still does not seem like it’s a sum worth reporting. Other than that, I can think of any other writing expenses.

Anyway, I’ll send her my answers tomorrow and will hopefully have my taxes completed soon so that I can mail out my payment to Uncle Sam.

I should have been in bed almost an hour ago. I’m finishing up the chapter that I am reading in In Memory Yet Green (through 75 pages) and then it’s lights-out!

To donate or not to donate?

I get about one email a day from the Democratic party, asking for a donation. They all say things like, “Your donation could be the difference between victory and defeat”, blah, blah, blah. Often they come from John Kerry, who is about as exciting as Johnny Cash’s version of “Ring Of Fire” (what I always imagined a singing zombie would sound like); occasionally, they come from other Big Wigs in the Democratic party. Some, like Howard Dean, I’ve heard of. Most I haven’t. All requests have, without exception, gone into the trash.

Until now.

The other day I received another request, but this time it came from Barack Obama. If the Democratic party has a savior on the horizon, he is it. I’ve been impressed by his speeches, his youth, his policies. He appears to have life and voice and what has otherwise been a crowd of lifeless windbags. Also, when we played his softball team two summers ago, he showed up to the game to cheer on the Ohio Illinois team. (We beat Ohio Illinois, but I was impressed because of all of the Senate teams we play, he was the only Senator to show up to a game.)

And so, because Barack Obama asked (or atleast allowed his name to be on the message) and because I currently believe he is the one real shining light in the Democratic party, I am considering making a contribution.

To be continued…

Cost cuts and budget updates

One thing I did over the weekend was to re-reun my financial modeling software (this is software I developed over a period of 10 years that projects every single financial transaction I will make into the future based on a given starting point, and that I use in place of things like Quicken) which is something I haven’t done in quite some time. There were some adjustments that needed to be made.

1. I wanted to add more to my retirement accounts.
2. I wanted to increase the amount of money I donate to charity.

I’ve been pretty bad at the latter this year. As it stands, I donate about 2.5% of my income to charity. I’m trying to get that up to 5%. As far as retirement goes, I’d cut back on how much I was putting into retirement in order to pay some big bills. Now that the big bills have been paid, I’m upping my contribution to $400/paycheck ($200/week). This is still a few thousand dollars short of the maximum allowed for tax deductions, but I’m getting there.

I put together a budget for charitable donations for the rest of this calendar year. Next year I’m looking to increase the amounts and within 2 or 3 years, I hope to be at my 5% mark. Some of the bigger ticket charitable donations this year:

  • Isaac Asimov Memorial Lecture: $500
  • UC Riverside Annual Fund: $350
  • AOPA Air Safety Foundation: $200
  • WETA President’s Circle Membership (my local PBS): $150

There are a number of smaller ticket items and it looks as though I have a little left over so if anyone has suggestions for good causes, let me know and I will look into them.

Finally, I need to do a little cost cutting. I started today by cancelling my NetFlix subscription. NetFlix is a great service, but I find that I hardly use it anymore. (The movies I have out now I’ve had for a couple of months.) The $240/year that I will save on NetFlix, for instance, completely covers the AOPA Air Safety Foundation donation.

There is more cost-cutting to be done, but I’ve got to take a closer look at my model to see where I can do it.

Adopt-a-library

Smithsonian Institution, of which I am a national member, has a program called “Adopt-a-library” to which I have been contributing for several years now, and today I mailed in a check to “re-adopt” two libraries for the coming year. The program provides the libraries with subscriptions to NATURAL HISTORY magazine for a full year. It doesn’t cost very much money ($18 per library) and it really helps libraries, whose funds are always being cut these days.

For the past three or four years now, I’ve adopted to the two libraries that had the greatest impact on me:

1. The Franklin Township Library in Somerset, New Jersey. This is the first public library I ever attended and it was this library that introduced me to science and astronomy through a book called The Nine Planets by Franklyn Mansfield Branley. I checked this book out of the library repeatedly and read it until I had the book memorized. It is because of this book that I learned to love science, astronomy and science fiction and for that I am forever grateful. Imagine if that library were not there when I was 6 or 7 years old!

2. The Granada Hills Public Library in Granada Hills, California. This was the first library for which I had a library card of my very own. I spent a lot of time in this library, checking out books, and reading books. I loved it. I would go there, and check out books, and then read them while I walked home (about a mile). I was free to roam about the library and no one was telling me what I could and could not read, and so I sampled a bit of everything that attracted my twelve-year-old attention. (Yes, including that famous book Girls and Sex which I read with fascination over a period of several Saturdays in a cubicle at the library because I was too afraid to bring it up to the front desk to check it out.

There are lots of great library programs out there. Support them if you can!

Renewal day

I finally got around to renewing a bunch of subscriptions and memberships that have been collecting since the beginning of the year.

  • I renewed (and upgraded) my membership to Smithsonian
  • I renewed my subscription to SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN through 2009
  • I renewed my subscription to F&SF through 2008
  • I renewed my subscription to ANALOG through 2009

I also paid a couple of bills, including the whopper of a gas (heating) bill this month.

I’ve still got two charitable donations to send away, but I’m waiting for the next paycheck to take care of those: $200 to my local PBS station WETA, where I am a member of the President’s Circle); and $250 to the Isaac Asimov Memorial Lecture at the Hayden Planetarium. Maybe I’ll even manage to make it to the lecture this year (I’ve been donating for years and never made it to a lecture).