## Giving to charities#

If you are considering giving to charities, consider giving the tax deduction to them too. (In the United States at least, donations to charities are considered “tax-deductible” and you do not have to pay taxes on that amount.) If you donate an item or cash worth x, and your tax rate is r (30% would mean r=0.3), then you’re going to get x*r back in your tax refund. Give that to the charity (in cash). You’ll get x*r2 back in your tax refund. Give that to the charity too. You’ll get x*r3 back. Give that to the charity too. Rinse and repeat.

What the charity will end up getting is x + x*r + x*r2 + x*r3 + .... Written another way, that's x * (1 + r + r2 + r3 + ...). This can be rewritten as x * (1 / (1 - r)).

So when you’re giving an item worth x to the charity, if you decide to give all the tax credits to them, they will end up with something worth x / (1 - r). Let’s say you’re donating an item worth \$100 and your marginal tax rate is 33% (federal + California can easily be this high). You can give them \$100/(1-0.333) = \$150 if you go through the itemized tax deductions. So give them the original item plus the \$50. That’s a big bonus for them (especially since it’s cash), and all it costs you is the time and hassle of keeping track of the receipts for tax purposes. If you had kept the tax credit, you would have \$33, but if you give it to them, it’s worth \$50.

## Zen Stories#

Last night I found a nice collection of Zen stories.

## Obliquity#

Obliquity: an essay about making money, being happy, and achieving your goals.

## Number Spirals#

NumberSpiral shows some fascinating patterns achieved by arranging natural numbers on a spiral. I have’t tried to verify these patterns myself though.

## Writing Scanners in Python#

If I ever work on Yapps again, I should take a look at using this “undocumented” feature of the SRE engine. I’m currently going through a list of regular expressions and trying to match each one. For example, I might have a list `r'if'`, `r'\w+'`, `r'\d+'`. With this new feature, I can combine all the regular expressions into one with alternation (`r'(if)|(\w+)|(\d+)'`) and then the regexp engine will tell me which one of them matched. This should speed up the scanner greatly.

SnarkHunting is a blog about naming products. It sounds like it’d be corporate and boring, but it’s actually quite fascinating.

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## The Internet could give consumers more power#

It’d be nice if everyone posted product & service ratings online. Unfortunately they’re much more likely to post something if it’s negative. For example, take a look at Apartment Ratings.com. Most of the comments are negative. Most people who had a positive experience didn’t post. (And some of the positive posts seem to be from employees of the company being rated...) If everyone posted ratings, they’d be much more useful. (As you might guess, I’m looking for a place to live...)

I find that I too am guilty of not posting enough ratings. I’m far more likely to post negative ratings than positive ones, even though I have a positive experience with most products I use (like this Thinkpad T40 I’m using right now). I’m not sure what the solution to this problem is. It needs to be much easier to post reviews in a way that can be aggregated.

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