Monthly Archives: December 2017

MollyGive 2017 wrapup

MollyGive 2017 has come to an end. Thanks, team!

Notes: An introduction

As always, I had a lot of fun with MollyGive. Sometimes it’s a little disappointing, but it’s also hearwarming, exciting, and full of discovery. I learn so much about the people in my life and what they care about.

As my salary is a matter of public record, I am going to spend this year talking not just in percentages, but specific numbers.

I worked about 75% of the year. The donation fund this year sat at just over nearly $4.8k. We went over this. That was unintentional…

Whenever a charity asked if I would pay the transaction fee, I did.

The donations

Basic numbers

Tithe funds: $4,794
Amount donate: $5,107.92
Percentage of income: 10.65%
Charities reached: 53
Number of donations matched: 64
Mean amount: $100
Median amount: $92.87
Mode amount: $100
Charities receiving over $100: 8
Charities with the most donations: Givewell; Software Freedom Conservancy
Number of charities outside the US: 3

Note: mean, median, and mode calculations were based on aggregations of donations per charity.

This year I grouped donations into the following categories:

  • animal rights
  • civil rights
  • digital rights
  • disaster relief
  • education
  • environmental (justice)
  • Givewell
  • medical
  • nonprofit support
  • political support
  • poverty support

Charts and graphs

Here are some charts I made.

Number of donations by organization type

A bar chart in multiple colors showing donations by category.

A pie chart in multiple colors showing donations by category.

Value (USD) of donations by organization type

A bar chart in multiple colors showing donations by amount.

A pie chart in multiple colors showing donations by amount.

The Charities

Most of these are 501(c)3s, registered charities. There are some 501(c)4s. I actually cheated my own rules: over the course of the year, if someone said they were giving to a crowdfunding medical campaign, I gave $50 to it. I later donated a matching amount to MassCare. I -also- donated to one educational crowdfunding campaign and then made a matching donation to a project that supports growing technical communities.

There are some charities I like, that I normally donate to, but I just ran out of funds this year. 🙂 They’ll be at the top of my list next year.

    • 350.org
    • Act Blue
    • Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)
    • AIDS Lifecycle
    • Alloy
    • American Forest Foundation
    • American Indian College Fund
    • Animal Rescue League
    • ARC Cancer Support Center
    • As You Sow
    • Barrets Town
    • Black & Pink
    • Casa Myrna
    • Charity Navigator
    • Congenital Heart Walk
    • Conservancy
    • DSA
    • EFF
    • Effing Foundation
    • END Fund’s deworming program
    • Evidence Action’s Deworm the World Initiative
    • Evidence Action’s Dispensers for Safe Water
    • Evidence Action’s No Lean Season
    • FSF
    • GiveDirectly
    • GiveWell
    • Giving Spirit LA
    • Go Fund Me – Medical
    • Helen Keller International’s vitamin A supplementation program
    • Hispanic Federation
    • Homeless Coalition
    • Malaria Consortium’s seasonal malaria chemoprevention program
    • MassCare
    • National Parks Foundation
    • Operation USA
    • OSI
    • Parts and Crafts
    • People for Fairness Coalition
    • Public Lab
    • Rosie’s Place
    • Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI)
    • Secularism.org.uk
    • Sightsavers’ deworming program
    • Somerville homeless coalition
    • Southern Poverty Law Center
    • Water Foundation
    • Woodhull Foundation
    • You Caring
    • YVIO

    My thoughts

    Lessons from this year

    Over the past year, I’ve participated in running several nonprofit, small donor fundraising campaigns. I took what I learned from these to push MollyGive with mild-aggression. I’ve been running MollyGive since around 2012 (I think), and this is the first year I’ve used the entirety of the funds.

    It always makes me a little sad when people like, retweet, and share relevant social media bites but don’t participate themselves. Over the past couple of years, I’ve taken to giving them the benefit of the doubt (after my initial sigh): I remind myself that not everyone feels able to give.

    This year, out of curiosity, I spoke with a few of them. I also had someone else approach me and offer a similar explanation: They think MollyGive is a great idea, but, since they have more means, and are planning on giving anyway, they don’t want to take that opportunity away from someone else. That was nice to know, and nice to think about. Thanks, friends for being so thoughtful with your giving.

    General thoughts, personal thoughts

    MollyGive is still a very silly name, that feels a little egoizing to use. After a number of years, I’ve gotten used to it. The first year it felt like a bit of a lark. Having just wrapped up its sixth year, I’ve found that other people have come to take MollyGive as seriously as I do–even though the name seems a little silly. As I’m writing this, I wonder if giving something a silly name helps it be more fun, or more approachable.

    I can’t get over how generous everyone was this year. I really can’t.

    It was suggested to me that I am outsourcing a not-insignificant amount of my decision making. This is true–I believe in expertise. I trust the opinions of others, especially concerning things I know little to nothing about (e.g. nonprofits working on education reform).

    Lessons for next year

    I think next year I am going to put a soft limit on the amount a given charity can receive. This is for personal reasons. I was using funds from outside the tithe account at the end of the month (see: going over 100%!!!). I am excited about the outcome–really–but I also wished I had been able to reach some other groups that I like and didn’t have a chance to get to this year.

    I’d love to somehow expand MollyGive. One suggestion someone gave me is to invite people who want to give, but want to outsource their decision making, to join me by promising their funds.

    Acknowledgements

    I don’t think I’ve ever written this before, but I’d like to thank Katrina Romangoli. She put the idea for MollyGive into my head in the early 2000s. I’d also like to mention Madeleine and Chris Price Ball, for the inspiration their yearly giving brings me.

    I’d also like to thank the socio-economic situation that allows me to do this. I am really grateful.

    To everyone who donated: thank you so so so much. We gave over $10,000 to charities. I’d like to give a special shout out to the people who helped me find new charities I’d never heard of, the student who is struggling financially who gave $20, and the people generous enough to give over $1000.

travel

I travel a lot. Not as much as people who are travelers–people who define themselves by the thing. In general, that’s a theme in my life: I do X more than the average person, but not as much as the average person who takes on that identity.

I leave the US a handful of times a year. In 2017 I went to Brussels, Paris, Montreal, Cuba, and, now, Leipzig. It looks like 2018 will include a trip to Australia, a few to Canada, and, hopefully, one or two to Europe. I miss my nephew (who is a baby and lives in Paris).

I probably leave Boston about once a month. 2017 was a fairly unique year, and I think I averaged a week out of town a month.

Okay, so I guess I do travel a lot.

The thing is, traveling -terrifies- me. Every time. Every single time.

Traveling within the United States makes me a little nervous. As long as you have a credit card and a pocket computer (and ideally a lap computer) you’ll be okay. I have these things. I also have a driver’s license and a passport, and am pretty good at keeping both of these with me most of the time.

Traveling internationally, however, means the phone function of your pocket computer is significantly less useful, your credit card may not work, and you need an adapter for your laptop charger. It is suddenly much easier for something to go wrong.

Also, the passport/driver’s license redundancy breaks down. In fact, losing your passport will throw you into a cascading adventure of bureaucracy, stress, and mounting express fees.

Add into this mix not speaking the language (as is usually the case for me. If I do speak any of it it’s mostly limited to ordering an espresso (as in one), or occasionally a croissant as well. Okay, I can generally express wanting an object).

Traveling internationally quickly can become much less exciting and much more nerve racking. The conversation now heavily relies on not just what can go wrong, but how to compensate for your lack of native knowledge should something go wrong.

Take today for example:

My debit card isn’t working at the ATMs. It turns out, one of my friends is also having this same problem (albeit in a different part of Germany). We have the same bank. Neither of us can call our bank, because we’re in Germany, because it’s Christmas, and because we’re in Germany on Christmas. Tomorrow, we may be able to call our bank, but neither of us could go to a German bank for help, because it’s the day after Christmas and we’d be in Germany on the day after Christmas–which counts as second Christmas according to a calendar I saw! They have two Christmases in Germany.

I usually don’t even have one.

So, now I have 15 euros (actually 11.81, because I bought a double espresso). I have a credit card, and the fees, while annoying, are something I can survive. However, I still don’t have any cash, and it’s not really feasible to do everything I need with a card.

Alternatively, I could find a friend (or friends) and buy them something (with my card) in exchange for cash. Maybe I could pay for someone’s hotel room, or take a big group out to dinner. Well, what if my card doesn’t work then? It will just be embarrassing.

In order to attack any of this, I need to find somewhere with wifi, which is what took me to the Starbucks where I spent 3 euro 19 purchasing an espresso so I felt okay using their wifi to text people. (Signal has been life changing for travel.) This doesn’t help me with the ATM problem, but it does make me feel less alone in Germany.

I’m kicking myself for not having a bigger stash of euros at home.

I know I’ll figure this out, but in the meantime I’m in Germany, all I can do is order espresso and say “eine bisse bitte” when someone asks me if I want sugar with my espresso and I only recognize that they’re offering me sugar because when I used to just say “ja” to every transactional question, I would end up with too-sweet coffee whenever they said the word sucre,

CDN expressed something along the lines of being impressed at my seemingly flawless confidence when it comes to getting on planes or trains, taking ferries and cars, and a deep love of discovering public transit systems and shortcuts through alleys. The thing is, every time I do any of this–whether it’s taking the yellow line on the BART and hoping I don’t miss the last stop before it crosses between San Francisco and East Bay (or East Bay and SF) or being pretty sure the woman who is going to check my ticket on the train is going to yell at me, in German, for something i don’t know I’ve done wrong and I can’t get another coffee, which my soul needs to survive the German woman who is inevitably going to be yelling at me–I am terrified. It’s scary and it’s hard.

Being in another country, whether you’re visiting or live there, when it’s not the place you carry native knowledge from–that’s a struggle. Every day of being in a place that’s foreign (whatever that means to you) brings with it a small but constant struggle that just makes you tired. It can be your brain doing that extra little work trying to understand languages you don’t speak at all; or not being able to tell if the packet you’ve picked up is baking powder or baking soda because it doesn’t say “sodium bicarbonate” anywhere, but the illustration of a cake and some cookies and a muffin makes you pretty sure it is one of those things; or just walking too slow (or fast) on the escalator. Walking on the escalator at all.

Life is full of constant, unconscious decisions we know instinctively based on knowing where we are. When we don’t know where we are, we struggle to make it work. We have to think consciously about these things or, when we don’t, we put more energy into it than the seamless flow of our life at home.

I travel a lot for my profession. I really do enjoy it, both my work in free software and traveling. I’m tired and it’s hard, but it’s valuable. There is a real purpose to putting myself on a train, a plane, another plane, a shuttle bus, another train, a subway car, and then a short walk in order to end up in the place where I’ll meet the people I need to meet, have the conversations I need to have, and build the ideas without which there would be no progress.

Besides, going interesting places is the most interesting thing about me. I have a credit card, a pocket computer, a passport, and an ability to be so terrified I appear confident.

emacs

For years I used Gedit as a text editor. I didn’t need one to do anything other than write, save, cut, copy, paste, and give me word counts. Usually, for long things, I would use LibreOffice, but Gedit served all of my note taking, idea sketching, and song writing needs.

Then it wasn’t sufficient anymore.

Over time I needed (or at least wanted) my text editor to do more. Text wrapping, working in split screens, and even just highlighting the beginning and ends of parentheticals. So, I switched to emacs.

Why emacs?

Well, I knew a lot of people who used emacs. That’s about it. Having friends use it means having a convenient support staff.

What I don’t like about emacs.

Key bindings are those things like how Ctrl-c copies selected text. Emacs uses wacky key bindings. I have some post-it notes with my favorite key bindings on them. Since emacs uses different key bindings than everything else, you have to code switch every time you move between, say, a web browser and emacs. Yes, I know you can set up extensions so all the typing you do into a browser is actually managed through emacs, I just don’t know how to do that yet.

The most annoying thing about emacs is that if you select text and start typing it looks like:

This is an example.

to…

Of when you try to replace text. This is an example.

Annoying, right?

This is EVEN MORE ANNOYING when you have to copy and delete a large swath of text. After you copy it (alt-w), it deselects the text and you have to find it all again.

Some neat things I like to do in emacs

Here are some of my favorite / most used commands in emacs.

Save and close

  • crtl-x ctrl-s, save
  • ctrl-x ctrl-c, save and quit

Copy, paste, and other basics

  • alt-w, copy selected text
  • ctrl-w, cut selected text
  • ctrl-y, paste text

Misc

  • ctrl-x h, select all
  • ctrl-x u, undo
  • ctrl-s, search
  • ctrl-g, cancel the command you’ve already started entering

That last one is the most important command in emacs. So important, I bolded it.

flyspell

Flyspell. Seriously. I can’t get over it. Maybe just because it’s new. Flyspell has changed my life. It’s a live spell checker, which was the greatest failure of emacs for most of my time using it.

alt-x flyspell-mode

This turns on flyspell.

alt-x flyspell-buffer

This runs spell check on the buffer (i.e. all the previous text you’ve entered).

I am using flyspell RIGHT NOW.

Frequent frustrations

Here are a few mistakes I make semi-frequently:

  • ctrl-v, this takes you to the bottom of the document (buffer) or something.

Actually, that’s the only one I could come up with right now in relation to key bindings.

Anyway, that’s my brief guide to emacs. There are more commands I use, but they come up infrequently enough that I need to look it up each time.

I love emacs–or maybe I should say I love using an extensible text editor that can, a far as I can tell, do anything given the right combination of keystrokes and sheer willpower.