PSA: Check your smoke detectors

One of ours just up and died.  All of them had been here since we bought the house like 10 years ago, so DH replaced all of them.

He says (after a lot of research) that smoke detectors have gotten a lot better in the past 10 years, so even if your smoke detector is still working, you may want to buy a new one or two.

What kind of smoke detector?  The national fire prevention association recommends one that has both ionization and photoelectric smoke detection.

The kind DH got to replace our old ones was the Kidde PI2010 aka FireX 21007915 at Home Depot (where they are more expensive but we don’t have to wait for shipping).

So yeah, check your smoke detectors!  It could save your life.

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In which we pay an estimated tax penalty

So, last year, with DH’s unemployment and our various deductions, we ended up getting $500 back from the government at tax time, even though we hadn’t paid in estimated taxes.  So this year we figured we weren’t required to pay estimated taxes because Turbo Tax said we hadn’t last year.  We were wrong.  Why?

1.  One of my legacy stock funds (American Century Trust from back when my father took care of my investments) decided to sell parts of itself and cause a capital gain of 6K which it then reinvested in itself.  It did this last year but only for 2K and hadn’t done it for the previous 12+ years so I thought last year was an aberration.  I was wrong.  Now I want to sell the entire thing so I don’t get these surprises each year.  (On the plus side, when I investigated last year, this capital gains thing they do lowers the capital gains that will accrue when the stock is actually sold.  Still, unlike my father, I prefer my investments to be simple and predictable.)

2.  I was stupid and made major charitable donations Jan 2015 instead of Dec 2014 because I didn’t understand our state tax situation for next year because … yes I know I have a phd in economics don’t judge me.  (I suspect Brigitte Madrian thinks I’m stupid too.  This is one of my great sorrows in life.)

3.  The stupidest of the stupids… I ridiculously assumed that if we claimed 0 deductions on withholding that the government would take out about the right amount of tax for our income so I wouldn’t have to think about taxes on the wage part, just the non-wage income income.  That is apparently seriously untrue.  Yes I know we are how old and never realized this before… but we never had to stop paying estimated taxes for a year and then start up again (and we had bigger mortgage tax deductions…).  Gov’t withholding  on your wages is not enough once you hit a high enough income.  I don’t know why I assumed it would be… it’s not like they can take out larger percentages of your paycheck as your income goes up.  [Update:  The gov’t DOES take out the appropriate amount of income if you’re single (and work steadily).  And the way it does it is by taking a larger % out of larger paychecks (unlike Social Security which takes out the same % and then just stops when you hit the cap).  The gap between monthly payments as a single vs. as a married is substantial and at my income level seems to be assuming that the spouse is earning less.  Which, in this case, he really isn’t.]

4.  We’ve never actually made more than 150K/year before and hit the tax penalty.  So we thought we only had to pay 100% of last year’s tax, which we were sure we’d do because DH has been employed all year instead of unemployed half the year… turns out we actually needed to pay 110% of last year’s tax.  And somehow we paid something like 108% of last year’s tax, give or take.

Add to that are the things we knew were changing, like less housing interest, and it turns out we both owe the government a pretty hefty 4 figure check and have incurred a penalty of $31.  It’s a good thing we’ve been saving up.

By the time we figured this all out, I was basically like, $31?  Screw it.  (Should we figure out if we can pay estimated taxes for 2014 now to eliminate the penalty?  Whatever.  Screw it.  It’s $31.  Which feels like nothing when you’re already writing a check for over $6K.  Even though it really isn’t nothing, I’d pay $31 not to have to think about taxes anymore this year.)

Apparently if we pay our tax bill early, we can cut the penalty to $21.  At least according to TaxAct.

Now to figure out the estimated taxes for next year… because there’s nothing like following up a huge check with another huge check.  But hey, rich people problems.  If only I didn’t feel so dumb.

link love

A strong and horrifying commentary on a recent NYTimes article and the sleazy “reporter” who wrote it.

8 things some a$$#ole says in every debate about sexism

a female computer science major at Stanford discusses sexism

interesting discussion of what it’s like to be in a female pocket in a male-dominated field

Finding freedom in paris:  African American women in the Jazz age

guess how I spent the last hour of my workday  hint

Powerful and disturbing post by Academic Cog.  This one deserves to go viral.

A windy city gal discusses confronting fear.

On the Boston winter.  The comments provide a really good discussion about how this may not be a natural disaster so much as a politically created one.

One weird trick female animals use to control who gets them pregnant.

baby sea lions need help

Borderlands books sponsorships

things to replace shopping with

these are soooo true


Feb 15

the video at the end of this article is awesome.  Hard to believe she’s only 25– she is tremendously talented. I wish I were that awesome at 25… or you know, now.

this is worth watching all of

valentines for academics

You’re welcome.

Ask the grumpies: Why did they stop taking social security taxes out?

High earner asks:

I just noticed that for the last few months of 2014, there was no social security tax deducted from my salary, and then in January, it went back up to where it was before that. Does that make any sense???

then a follow-up:

I think I just figured it out. Do they deduct the standard percent each month of the calendar year until you reach the maximum based on the annual taxable limit of $117,000, and then they stop deducting?

We at grumpy rumblings thank high earner for answering hir own question.  (Note:  In 2015, the maximum amount of taxable earnings is $118,500.)  When policy makers talk about eliminating the tax cap on Social Security, this is what they’re talking about.

We are pro- this tax cap elimination because it comes as a surprise to most people the first time they hit it!  (And it’s a lot more progressive than cutting Social Security benefits for people who need them, though some cuts make sense given longer working lives.) In the mean time, though, we wish we earned more money so we could take advantage of it…

Don’t punch down

Racists punch down.  Misogynists punch down.  Bullies punch down.

If you’re in the majority, if you’re protected by privilege, even if you’re not as protected as a tall, wealthy, Christian, white male would be… don’t punch down to the people worse off than  you.

Don’t blame an entire group for the failings of a few members if that group is lower than you on life’s difficulty setting.  It’s not their job to police everybody who shares the discriminated against characteristic.  (Whereas you might be able to make an argument that there is nobody else to police the wealthy tall white male “Christians” but wealthy tall white male “Christians” themselves.)

If you’re going to punch a group, then punch up.

If you find the action of a single person or small group of people to be despicable, then call out that action.  Call out those people.  Don’t blame the entire group.  Don’t do things that are racist just because a black guy killed a cop or because a small group of terrorists killed a group of comic strip writers.  Extend the same courtesy to less privileged groups that you do to the most privileged groups, because without doing that, the patriarchy will never be defeated.

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breaking news: Books are good

You should read Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson.  Just get it.

This book is so good and I stayed up way too late to finish it. Also, if you can get the hardback, do, because the design is quite beautiful.  [Note, however, that the kindle version is $2.99, so even if you don’t love it as much as #1 did, you’re not out that much.]

The book is about high schoolers dealing with race and romance at an expensive prep school in DC.  The protagonist, Emily (or “Bird” to her friends), goes to a party and wakes up in the hospital, unsure what happened.  But there’s a spy chasing her, convinced she knows something important about the pandemic virus that’s sweeping the country.  She doesn’t, but maybe the mysterious drug dealer she’s been flirting with does?  Who can she trust?  Not her parents, not her boyfriend, and probably not the government.


I’m not doing it justice but it’s got all kinds of goodies.  Try it out!

(#2 has not read it… it sounds too suspenseful and #2 is in the regency romance portion of her non-work reading ability right now.  The kind where she reads the last chapter after the first just to make sure it turns out ok.  Even though there’s no way it’s not going to turn out ok because it’s a @#@#ing regency romance.  But #2 can’t really handle surprises right now.)

How do raises work where you work?

I work at a university.  Every year, the university decides what % raises each department will be able to give on average (usually ranging from 0% to 3%).  The department decides whether or not to top up.  Sometime in the summer raises are determined (initially we all got COL raises that exactly matched inflation, then we got 0 raises because recession, now there’s a seriously awful “merit” formula that makes no sense).  In any case, raises are determined at exactly the same time each year and we know when to expect them.  We don’t have to talk to anybody to get them, they just happen.  (Though complaining about equity at step increases such as promotions might help.)

We can get out of cycle raises by getting outside job offers.

My DH is working a real job right now.  We have no idea how raises are supposed to work.  He was going to ask at his annual review, but unfortunately his annual review got cut short (to about 10 min) because there were delays and it got pushed up right to his flight time.

He doesn’t know, is he supposed to ask?  Is he supposed to make a case?  Is there an automatic COL increase?  Does he only get raises when there’s an outside offer?  We don’t know.  So he’s asking.  He doesn’t want to ask, but he will at some point because without cost-of-living increases, one’s real salary erodes.  (Plus the company is doing well, partly because of his efforts!)

In the mean time, that got me curious, how does it work most places?

How does it work for our readers?  Are raises automatic?  Are they tied to something?  Do you have to ask about them?  Do they happen annually?

How do you get your raises?



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