How do you decide how much to give to Charity each year?

It's been a long time since I've posted on LJ, but this is a question I've been pondering, and I'm hoping ya'll have some good advice.

Do you define a set amount or percentage of your income, and just budget around it? What amount or percentage?
Do you wait and see what's left at the end of the year?
Do you set aside a certain amount each month?

On the one hand, I'm single and earning well, saving a bit more than I'm spending each year. On the other hand, I'm currently paying for fertility treatments since I'm trying to be a single mom, and if I succeed, life will get a lot more expensive.

Right now, I'm setting aside $200/month in a Charity Savings Account (up from $20/month when I was a starving grad student), with the intent to disburse the contents of that account somewhere where it will do good. There's about $3700 in there right now.

That amount doesn't hurt. I don't feel short of money at the end of the month, and it's automatically withdrawn, so I don't have to think about it. Inside my head, the money in that account isn't mine; I'm just holding it for some entity to be defined later.

Should I give more? It feels kind of like cheating that I'm only giving money that I'm not going to miss.  Should I make it an amount large enough to hurt? If so, am I stealing from my potential unborn child?

Second question:
How do you decide how much to give where? Aside from the Charity Savings Account, I've donated money to a few other places this year, for reasons that weren't necessarily very well thought out.

I donated to One Stop Senior Services, largely because an acquaintance asked me to buy a ticket to their benefit and it sounded like fun, and a neat charity.
I donated to Reading Is Fundamental, because I love books and they sounded desperate and I always wanted one of their free books when I was a kid. 
I donated to the HeroRats via Global Giving because it sounded cool in the Nicholas Kristof article, and I thought it was a clever Father's Day present.
I donated to Food for the Poor because I wanted to do something after the Haiti disaster.
I've bought a few things on facebook because I've been playing their stupid games, and this way I get to donate a tiny bit of money to a good cause, and get a bit of virtual animation for myself.

None of that came from the Charity Savings Account either -- those were all impulse donations, but now I'm on their mailing lists.
[Boy howdy, am I on their mailing lists -- I suspect that a large portion of the money they got from me has been spent on glossy flyers, especially from Food for the Poor and Amnesty International.  HeroRats, on the other hand, just sends me a cheap monthly e-mail updating me on what they've done lately, which I rather like.]
Should I pick one charity and put all my charity donations into it, and just say no to everyone else?  Should I pick a few charities, say, 2-4, and stick with them?  Should I spread my donations thin among a wealth of giving opportunities, encouraging charities to send me lots of flyers for limited return?
If I am going to give a certain amount every month, should I set up automatic transfers to the chosen charities, so they can budget better, or should I stick with annual donations?  And how do I tell the all of the charities, both chosen and non-chosen, to stop with the flyers since they're annoying, wasting money, and aren't going to change my donations?
Also, museum memberships count as charitable donations, but I get something from them too, even if I only make it to the museum once or twice/year. Should those come out of my monthly allocation, or be budgeted separately?
Finally, should I disburse what's in the Charity Savings Account on a regular basis, or keep saving it 'til something really important comes up, and how will I know?
My personal charity priorities are health, education and literacy.  Everyone has their own priorities -- I know lots of folks here have different priorities, so I'm not actually asking for recommendations for specific charities, although if you have those, I'd be happy to hear about them.  I'm mostly asking how you structure your donation habits.
Thanks for any advice and information!


(no subject)

I'm throwing a housewarming for my new apt on August 21st. If there's any chance you can make it, drop me a note and I'll send you the invite. (It's in NYC)

Life Update

Let's see where I am in various goals:

Weight Loss - 20 lbs down, 20 lbs more to goal.

Getting Pregnant - 3 failed IUI cycles, currently in the middle of my first medicated cycle. I'll find out a week from Wednesday whether this cycle worked or not. Then, if I do get a positive test, I get the nail-biting wait to see if my 39 year old body can keep it.

New glasses - picking them up this afternoon.

New office - moving offices tomorrow. My office will be for me and a person TBD, but we're not actively interviewing right now, so I may have an office to myself for a while. I'll miss my office mates, but I'll really enjoy being able to use my keyboard tray and not have that push my chair far enough back that I'm in front of my office-mate's computer.

Wrist Pain - slightly improved. The "No Advil because I'm trying to get pregnant" rule is annoying, but the ability to use Dragon once I don't have noisy chattering office mates, and to actually set up my office for ergonomics rather than space efficiency will be nice.

Loneliness - still a problem. I'm at work too much, and I think part of the problem is that there's not a huge motivation to leave -- I can play on the computer at work, or play on the computer at home. I went to All Souls services a few times, and it was nice. Now that I'm off service for two weeks starting today, I'm planning to go to services for the next two Sundays, but then I'll be back on service for 28 straight days. It would be really nice to come home and have someone to talk to.

New Apartment - moved last November. All planned furniture has been purchased, and it's actually a lovely apartment. Pretty much unpacked too (modulo a couple of boxes, which will get unpacked when I have office space to unpack them into). I need to arrange for a housewarming party. I'm thinking maybe Saturday, August 21st.

Major Infodump Update

1. I'm not dead.

2. I'm also not reading LJ or Facebook or anything like that recently, where recently is defined as "since I started my new job."

3. I started a new job the last week of May. I love the work, the people, the institution, the subsidized housing (still very expensive, but much cheaper than an equivalent place in NYC) and the salary. I hate the hours. Hate hate hate the hours. I haven't worked so many hours since my residency, and possibly not even then. Thus, the dropping off the face of the planet.

4. I have moved. To the aforementioned subsidized faculty housing. However, my e-mail address is unchanged since 1996, so if you want my snail mail address or phone number, and you've ever exchanged e-mail with me, drop me a note and ask.

5. I am still trying to find someone to take over the lease on my old place, since marketing anything while working obscene hours is hard, and my landlord has a signed lease and is incredibly unmotivated to market a property with guaranteed income through June. Do you know anyone looking for a beautiful apartment at 313 West 105th street in NYC?

6. I will be at Arisia. I will also be on several panels at Arisia, to wit:

Friday, 7pm: Trauma as Character Development

Saturday, 6pm: Disability and Fandom

Sunday at noon: Bioethics in Today's World

Sunday at 4pm: E-books: Pros and Cons

Sunday at 5pm: The Nature of Gender: Past, Present and Future

Sunday at 6pm: Disabilities in Science Fiction

Does anyone want to go out for dinner Sunday evening, after my three-panels-in-a-row? I'll either be talked out and a good listener, or completely wired, and vastly entertaining.

(no subject)

There's a very noisy bumble bee banging against my window.

I feel like saying, "Idiot. The other window is the one that's open. Can't you remember where you came in?" Except that of course, it's a bee. With a bee-sized brain. So of course it can't remember where it came in.

My second thought was, "Gee, neither of my cats are interested enough in that moving buzzing thing to come investigate? Odd." Then they strolled over, and have been staring avidly at the moving buzzing thing ever since.

It's buzzing at the window with all my art glass in front of it, so I'm rather glad the cats are being mellow. If they were jumping and diving on my glass, I'd have to relocate all three of them (both cats and the bee).

Perhaps I should go help the poor bee out. Show it where the exit it. And perhaps not. Bees have stings, and it is a good show.

I have a job!

I signed the formal offer letter today from Weill-Cornell Medical Center. It's at 68th St and York Ave. on the East side of Manhattan.

I am very pleased about this job. It involves patient care (in the inpatient setting) and teaching for about 75% of my time, with the other 25% dedicated to whatever informatics seems useful to the hospitalist team of which I will be a member.

Not to mention, it's more money than I've ever made before, since it's my first full time job as a doctor no-longer-in-training. And Cornell has great benefits. And the people I'll be working with are nice and smart and fun to talk to, at least from what I saw in the interview.

I am very very pleased. My anticipated start date is May 15th, assuming that all the appointment paperwork goes through in reasonable time. I'll be both on the faculty and the staff at Weill Cornell Medical College. Again, assuming all the paperwork goes through, my faculty title will be Assistant Professor of Medicine, and my clinical title will be Assistant Attending Physician.

I'm really excited about this. I'll have to review my medicine, since I've been doing mostly non-clinical work (and a tidbit of clinical stuff) since mid-2005, but still. Patients. And Teaching. And Patients. And cool co-workers. And even some time for informatics.

I'm not sure it gets better than this, although I'm sure I'll find something I don't like about it sooner or later. I already know that during my clinical months, I'll be working two out of four weekends. I agreed to that, and it's fair and necessary for patient care, but I suspect I'll get tired of it fairly quickly.

So, the big remaining question -- when I go apartment hunting, do I look on the East Side, near work, so I can walk to and from work, or do I look on the West Side, where all the fun stuff is, and just plan to bus to and from work?

Lunacon and I-con

On Lunacon: I was a lamer, and didn't reserve a hotel room. Does anyone have a hotel room they're willing to share at Lunacon? I'd prefer a bed, and I'll happily pay half the room fee to get a bed, but if we can get a cot or there's room for my to bring my (queen sized) air bed, that'd work too. I'm quiet, non-smoking (and I hope you are too), and not planning to share my bed with anyone else.

On I-con: I've got one free membership. (Well, two actually, but one of them is for me). Anyone want it? First to claim gets it.

Computer Games

As some of you know, I play a lot of computer games when I'm procrastinating and generally being a lamer.

My favorite place to get 'em from is

Well, since I get a lot of games from them, they like me rather a lot. Recently, they sent me two free game coupons to give to friends that have to get used by the end of February.

Not only did they say, "Give these to a friend.", but they're for two games that I already have, so the free game coupons don't do me any good.

The first is Build-a-lot, where you build and sell houses and try to make lots of game money.
The second is Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate, which is largely a hidden object type game, interspersed with some clever puzzles.

Both of them are, in my opinion, quite good.

To get the games, you're going to need to either have or create an account with Big Fish Games, and you're going to have to download both the game and their game installer.

That said, if you're interested, comment on this post. The first person to ask for each game will get the game coupon from me. If I don't know your e-mail address or snail mail address, then leave me one or the other so I can get the game coupon to you. I'll screen comments so the whole world won't be able to get your contact info.

(no subject)

Wow, long time no post.

The important stuff: I'm visiting Boston this weekend. If you want to see me in Boston, please e-mail or call me. If the only phone number you have for me starts with 646, that's the landline back in NYC and won't reach me. If you have a 347 cell number, that's deprecated. If you have a 917 cell phone, that's the one I have with me. E-mail might be easier. *grin*

I am going to the DeCordova outdoor sculpture garden and museum tomorrow (Saturday) and will be meeting folks there at 1pm. It's a great place for small folks to run around and climb on _some_ of the sculpture, and for adults to walk, talk, and either admire or make snarky comments or both about the sculpture.

I am also calling a dim sum run at Chau Chow City on Sunday at noon.

I would love to meet folks at either location. If you want me to look for you, then e-mail me to let me know that. If you want to just show up, that's fine too, but then the onus is on you to look for me.

Other life details:
*Finished my fellowship at the end of August. I'm official a MD MA as opposed to just a MD.

*Still job hunting, but had a good interview Monday and have two more interviews likely in the next few weeks, so with luck I'll be employed before my target date (end of November).

*The paper I submitted to AMIA was not only accepted last June, but I found out last week that it's a finalist in the student paper competition, which means (a) AMIA pays for my conference attendance and (b) I get to give it twice at the conference instead of just once and (c) it's a nice honor.

If you want to know more, then e-mail me, call me, or show up at the DeCordova on Saturday at 1, or at Chau Chow city on Sunday at noon.