kitchen table math, the sequel: 3/15/15 - 3/22/15

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Real World Math Problem

FAFSA's EFC is based on your gross before-tax income (including IRA and 401K contributions) and your excess assets. You are expected to save some of your after-tax income to pay for your child's education. During the year, you cut back and save as much as you can. However, when you fill out the FAFSA form, this after-marginal-tax bracket money is sitting in a non-retirement account and is used to increase your EFC. However, if you get a tax refund that comes in late, then it's not sitting in your account and you do not have to report it. Likewise, if you get a bonus (which is income) that comes in on July 1 and you use it to pay for college, it will not be sitting in your account when you fill out FAFSA following year.

One college accounts for this for student income because the percentages are high, but the comment was that this was "small" for parents. My son's college uses 8% after taxes and we're not talking about a meal at IHOP.

The no one right answer math question is: "What's up with that?"

Also, if you take IRA money out to pay for college, then that's added to your income and used in next year's EFC. Score one for Roth.

What's up with that number two?

In our case, our tax refund came in after FAFSA and before CSS Profile. I think I will take out a whole lot more in taxes and not file electronically.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Greetings from the midbrain! and housekeeping and email

Parachuting into my own blog for the first time in (days? weeks?) —I see Le Radical Galoisien is back!


Anyway, I've not been here because I'm there, in the basement of the brain, prowling the basal ganglia. The book's deadline has now been moved to September 1, thank heavens, but it's still going to be a race to the finish, or a slog. A guillotine deadline, as an editor of mine once said, and not happily.

Making matters worse, in the closing moments of 2014 I made a commitment, as my sole resolution for 2015, to clear out my office. Not just my office, but my family room and living room, too, which had become holding areas for office spill-over.

I am clearing out my office, as well as my family and living rooms. The latter two now have nary a file or folder insight. Success.

As of this morning I have scanned, filed, stored, and/or discarded 670 items. (Yes, I'm counting.)

The subset of those 670 items that has been scanned, filed, and/or stored has also been duly recorded on Workflowy, giving me a fighting chance of locating any one of them again when I need it.

(M. said to me the other day: "You should write down where you put things." I said: "I do.")

As it turns out, writing a book about the basal ganglia and decluttering 16 years of office accumulation at the same time was a crackpot idea, not to put too fine a point on it. Fortunately, because I'm writing a book about the basal ganglia (about the frontostriatal circuit, actually) I now know why writing a book about the basal ganglia and clearing out 16 years of office accumulation at the same time is insane:
[L]ots of multitasking requires decision-making: Do I answer this text message or ignore it? How do I respond to this? How do I file this email? Do I continue what I’m working on now or take a break? It turns out that decision-making is also very hard on your neural resources and that little decisions appear to take up as much energy as big ones. One of the first things we lose is impulse control. This rapidly spirals into a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important. Why would anyone want to add to their daily weight of information processing by trying to multitask?
Why the Modern World is Bad for Your Brain by Daniel Levitin
Clearing away 670 items requires six hundred and seventy decisions, each one of them momentous as far as my brain is concerned.

I can't even begin to estimate how many separate decisions writing a book about the frontostriatal circuit requires. Every sentence in and of itself requires multiple decisions, since most of my sentences go through multiple revisions. That's just for starters.

Which brings me to the next issue:
In discussing information overload with Fortune 500 leaders, top scientists, writers, students, and small business owners, email comes up again and again as a problem. It’s not a philosophical objection to email itself, it’s the mind-numbing number of emails that come in. When the 10-year-old son of my neuroscience colleague Jeff Mogil (head of the Pain Genetics lab at McGill University) was asked what his father does for a living, he responded, “He answers emails.”
Several months ago (in the fall? the summer?) my Outlook calendar and email program blew up again. This has been going forever, along with multiple crashes of my not-remotely-ancient iMac, entailing multiple trips to the Genius Bar and, finally, a long-distance relationship with kindly Brad, who lives and works on the Apple mothership.

Each repair of my iMac took another bite out of Outlook, and I am now at the point where I can't retrieve anything from Outlook, not even addresses.

I can fix it, I'm sure, and I would if I had even one single synapse free to devote to the task.

But I don't. Not one.

So: if you've sent me an email and I haven't answered, that's why. I'm now mired in indecision over whether to simply set up another gmail address and post it here on the blog, or post the gmail address I've been using for family and local friends and use that for everything, or what.

I don't have any synapses to devote to that decision, either.

(While I'm on the subject of ancillary gmail addresses, should I set one up to sell the books I no longer want on Amazon? A tall-ish stack of books is sitting on the floor beside my desk, awaiting further action.)

I need more synapses.

OK, back to work  miss you all and will try to be present more often  !