roundup, 3

Welcome to the 2014 Charity Roundup. You can read about 2013 and 2012 in the archives.

What This Is

I tithe. I keep track of where money goes. It’s a party.

Differences from 2013

I actually did not tithe this year. Instead, I took the amount I would normally spend on my student loans, donated that, and used the tithe on my loans. I did not do a MollyGive Matching Program this year, mostly because it was a lot of effort last year and I’ve been busy. In general, I donated to fewer charities this year (I had not realized by how much until just now), largely because I was so busy I put it off until late December and did not have time to do much research. Instead, I donated almost exclusively to local charities and things that were on my mind the day I sat down to do it.

While I would not say my values have changed over the past year (though they have, as they do every year), I became much more uncertain about where my money could do the most good. For example, I really wanted to donate to an environmental group, but could not decide which one I thought was the “best” based on my interests.

My income changed in November. I did not account for that change. I will starting in January of 2015.

This Year’s Percentages

Charity Percentage
Bikes Not Bombs 13.5
Electronic Frontier Foundation 11
Free Software Foundation 22
Girls Rock Camp Boston 43
Public Lab 4
Wikimedia 6

Drives v. Others

BNB and GRCB both included supporting the fundraising of others. The FSF and the EFF donations were part of membership drives.

How I feel about MollyGive 2014

I actually feel pretty negative about how this year’s donations went. I did not end up giving as much as I would have liked, and while I believe in the value of the groups I donated to, I think I could have put more effort into better researching and distributing funds in the future.

Hopes for 2015

I hope to return to full tithing. I would also like to try a MollyGive Matching another try. While it was hard to drum up the initial enthusiasm among those around me, once it was there, the results were very positive.


While homicide is an issue, it is a much smaller problem (statistically speaking) than rape. I will be talking about forcible rape, as defined by the FBI.

In 2012 the FBI changed their definition of rape for UCR.

The old definition was “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

Many agencies interpreted this definition as excluding a long list of sex offenses that are criminal in most jurisdictions, such as offenses involving oral or anal penetration, penetration with objects, and rapes of males.

The new Summary definition of Rape is: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” (Text from a 2014 FAQ released by the FBI)

Numbers from 2012 onward reflect a different definition of what [forcible] rape is–legally speaking.


CIUS and Disaster Center both use the term “forcible rape” in their reporting. Both groups showed increases in total reported cases–though by hundreds in the case of CIUS and a thousand in the case of Disaster Center.

Rapes – National 2011-2013

year population total rate
CIUS 2011 311,587,816 84,175 27.00
CIUS 2012 313,914,040 84,376 26.90
CIUS 2013 316,128,839 79,770 25.20
Disaster Center 2011 311,587,816 84,175 27.00
Disaster Center 2012 313,873,685 85,141 27.10
Disaster Center 2013 316,128,839 79,770 25.20


CIUS local data only includes certain urban areas. Please note the population total for those rows.

MA – Estimates Based on National Averages

year population total rate
CIUS* 2011 4,578,146 1,236.10 27.00
CIUS* 2012 4,629,025 1,249.84 26.90
CIUS* 2013 4,679,143 1,263.37 25.20
Disaster Center 2011 6,607,003 1,783.89 27.00
Disaster Center 2012 6,645,303 1,794.23 27.10
Disaster Center 2013 6,692,824 1,807.06 25.20

*Includes Boston-Quincy, MA; Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA; and Peabody, MA and Rockingham County-Strafford County, NH

MA – Actual

year population total rate
CIUS* 2011 4,578,146 992 22.40
CIUS* 2012 4,679,143 1,286 22.40
CIUS* 2013 4,629,025 1,010 28.00
Disaster Center 2011 6,607,003 1,654 25.00
Disaster Center 2012 6,645,303 1,650 24.80
Disaster Center 2013 6,692,824 2,089 31.20

Since CIUS data is reported, there is incomplete reporting. The numbers above reflect 96.6%, 98.6%, and 95% of agencies reporting (respectively). The CIUS numbers and the DC ones are for different sized populations, with the regions of one being a subset of the other. There was a marked increase between 2012 and 2013 in the state of MA. Reporting for the newer, more liberal definition of rape was first recorded (fully) in 2013.

For city specific data, I also got numbers from City Data, which used a different term, so I included a column to specify. I could not think of a good way to organize this table. It would probably make a nicer graph.

Boston, Cambridge, Somerville – Actual

year population total rate term used
Boston – CRU 2010 N/A 256 N/A rape
Boston – City Data 2011 621,359 271 43.6 rape
Boston – CIUS 2011 621,359 271 43.6 forcible rape
Boston – City Data 2012 636,479 249 39.5 rape
Boston – CIUS 2012 630,648 112 17.6 forcible rape
Boston – CIUS 2013 N/A 138 N/A forcible rape
Cambridge – CRU 2010 N/A 16 N/A rape
Cambridge – City Data 2011 105,803 24 22.7 rape
Cambridge – CIUS 2011 105,803 24 22.7 forcible rape
Cambridge – City Data 2012 106,471 20 18.7 rape
Cambridge – CIUS 2012 106,981 10 9.3 forcible rape
Cambridge – CIUS 2013 N/A 8 N/A forcible rape
Somerville – CRU 2010 N/A 13 N/A rape
Somerville – City Data 2011 N/A 17 22.3 rape
Somerville – City Data 2012 77,104 23 29.8 rape


These are just forcible rapes (as defined above) reported to the police who then, in turn, report them to the FBI. Common practice says that this only scratches the surface of sexual assault as it exists around the nation.

I really need to figure out good ways to make graphs for these posts. I think some graphs would be nice.

If you’re still looking for a New Years resolution, I would recommend that you don’t rape anyone in 2015, and encourage people who have been raped to report it.


CIUS – National

CIUS – MA 2011, 2012, 2013

Disaster Center – National

Disaster Center – MA

City Data – BostonCity Data – Cambridge

City Data – Somerville

Uniform Crime Reporting


I know someone who doesn’t feel safe taking public transit or walking alone at night. I feel perfectly safe doing these things and, generally, prefer them over cabs and ubers. Maybe I lack the visceral fear some people develop as a result of being catcalled within the city. Maybe I grew up in a (more) dangerous place, and am left generally unfazed by suburban feel of Camberville. Regardless of the reason, I don’t worry about being spontaneously raped, mugged, or shot while out.

This is about homicide.

Homicide refers to the killing of a human–as manslaughter or murder. It also includes “justifiable killings.” The FBI only includes non-negligent killings and murder.


National rates are gathered from CIUS (Crime in the US, link below), which is maintained by the FBI, and the Disaster Center. The CIUS national numbers are from 2011 and 2012, the CIUS state numbers are from 2012 and 2013. Disaster Center numbers are from 2012 and 2013.

Homicide – National
Source Years Population per 100k total
CIUS 2011 311,587,816 4.7 14,661
CIUS 2012 313,914,040 4.7 14,827
Disaster Center 2012 313,873,685 4.7 14,752
Disaster Center 2013 316,128,839 4.5 14,196


For these numbers, I took the national rate per 100k (homicides per 100k people), and estimated based on the population [(population/100,000)*homicides per 100k] The CIUS number comes from only urban areas within MA. The Disaster Center numbers are from the entire state.

MA – Estimates Based on National Averages
Source Years Population per 100k total (estimated)
CIUS* 2012 1,183,933 4.7 55.64
CIUS* 2013 1,192,220 4.7 56.03
Disaster Center 2012 6,645,303 4.7 312.33
Disaster Center 2013 6,692,824 4.5 301.18
MA – Actual
Source Years Population per 100k total
CIUS* 2012 1,183,933 3.04** 36
CIUS* 2013 1,192,220 3.61** 43^
Disaster Center 2012 6,645,303 1.82** 121
Disaster Center 2013 6,692,824 2.05** 137

*Urban areas include Boston, Cambridge, Lowell, Springfield, and Worcester

**Maths done by me. For generating the per 100k, when the number was [(population/total homicides)*100,000].

^Four of these (9.3%) are related to the Boston Marathon Bombings.

We’re doing pretty well compared to the national average.

Local Numbers

These are about Boston, Cambridge, and Somverille. There are gaps. I left open the population totals (when they were not listed on the corresponding website) because I don’t know where they got their numbers from and, as you can see, their other numbers differ.

Boston, Cambridge, Somerville – Estimates assuming national rates
Source Years Population per 100k total
City Data – Boston 2011 N/A 4.7 N/A
City Data – Boston 2012 636,479 4.7 29.91
City Data – Cambridge 2011 N/A 4.7 N/A
City Data – Cambridge 2012 106,471 4.7 5.00
City Data – Somerville 2011 N/A 4.7 N/A
City Data – Somerville 2012 77,104 4.7 3.62
CIUS – Boston 2011 630,648 4.7 28.38
CIUS – Boston 2012  N/A 4.7 N/A
CIUS – Cambridge 2011 106,981 4.7 5.03
CIUS – Cambridge 2012 N/A 4.7 N/A
Boston, Cambridge, Somerville – Actual
Source Years Population per 100k total
City Data – Boston 2011 N/A 10.1 63
City Data – Boston 2012 636,479 9 57
City Data – Cambridge 2011 N/A 4.7 5
City Data – Cambridge 2012 106,471 0.9 1
City Data – Somerville 2011 N/A 0 0
City Data – Somerville 2012 77,104 0 0
CIUS – Boston 2011 630,648 3.65** 23
CIUS – Boston 2012 N/A N/A N/A
CIUS – Cambridge 2011 106,981 0.93** 1
CIUS – Cambridge 2012 N/A N/A N/A

**Maths done by me, see above.

Thoughts, Additional Table, Disclaimers, etc

City Data and CIUS have really radically different numbers. City Data does provide a disclaimer saying that their information may be neither accurate nor timely. They suggest using “at your own risk.” Comparing Disaster Center and CIUS is not really worthwhile, as they consider different populations.

It’s really sad that Boston’s crime rates are higher than Camberville’s.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) has a program called National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) This is a very specific type of reporting system, which provides very different data than the above. Starting in 2011, data previously managed by UCR was replaced with NIBRS.

Homicides: NIBRS, UCR

Source Years Population Homicides
NIBRS 2013 316,128,839 3,465
UCR (National) 2010 308,745,538 14,748
UCR (MA) 2010 6,547,629 210
UCR (Boston) 2010 617,594 73
UCR (Cambridge) 2010 105,162 0
UCR (Somerville) 2010 75,754 0

In their pamphlet, NIBRS says that only 19% of homicides in 2013 were committed by a stranger. In terms of a random person killing me on the street, I’m not worried. In Camberville, over the past few years, there was only one stranger on stranger homicide and it was far beyond what one worries about when they think about being killed randomly.

Given infinite time and resources, it would be interesting to pull up each of the specific cases of homicide in Camberville (which is very doable).

I don’t know anything about statistics beyond folk knowledge and the things you learn in bio lab and from your statistician friends. That is to say: more than the average person on the average (i.e. non-Camberville) street, but not really a lot. My maths are based on what I know: public education and intuition. I am happy to receive criticism, advice, and corrections.

I know that there are lots of crimes other than homicides that are problems. Sexual assault is huge. Writing about homicide took me so long, I decided to shelve sexual assault until a possible future.


CIUS – National is maintained by the FBI. They use the term “murder and nonnegligent manslaughter.”


Disaster Center uses the term “murder.”

Disaster Center – National

Disaster Center – MA

City Data uses the term “murder.”

City Data – Boston

City Data – Cambridge

City Data – Somerville

Uniform Crime Reporting


The guy outside of Anna’s is smoking pot. You can smell it halfway down the street. It’s high quality. I can’t help but smile as I walk past him.

“Girl knows what’s up,” he says and holds out a hand to me.

“Don’t ever change man,” I say, hi-five him, and explode it out.

“I love you and I don’t even know you.”

“That makes two of us,” I call behind me.


Emacs is a text editor used for everything from editing text to writing code to organizing one’s entire life. It’s an older piece of software–originally written in 1976. It’s strength comes from extensibility–you can make emacs do whatever you want if you have the patience, time, and skills. Another way to word this is that it’s super crunchy and hard to use. It’s hard to save files, it’s hard to copy and paste, and it’s hard to become involved. One emacs hacker/user I know said:

…for social and technical reasons contributing to the project is hard and some people view this as a good thing and that’s really shitty.

My criticisms of FLOSS projects have a lot to do with difficulties in install processes, usability, and accessibility (a11y). Inaccessible software is bad. Software that is hard to use is bad. Software that is hard to install is bad.

(I will note that, from this perspective, all text editors are bad.)

Thinking about free software development and usability from a business perspective begs up the question: What does the customer want? The customer for a community is a contributor–the customer for an application, operating system, package is the person installing it. Looking at emacs as a case study, I recently found myself asking if it needs to be accessible and easy. I am not the natural user for emacs. I don’t use it now. Why is it important for it to cater to my needs?

Being able to code is important. So is being able to change a flat tire, swim, sharpen a kitchen knife, unclog a toilet, and understand the basics of how your hot water heater works so that if the pilot light ever goes out, you know what to do or at least how to figure out why your shower is cold.

Initiatives like Hour of Code are important because computers need to be normalized. Not everyone needs to be a developer, but everyone does need to know the basics of how computers work. It is not–and should not–be acceptable to say (with pride even) that you don’t know how computers work, what code is like.

It is not the job of emacs and the community to make sure I can use it to code–or use it at all. However, it should be the imperative of the community to make sure I know and understand the fundamentals of technology–this includes the basics of how computers actually do things. From a perspective of self-preservation, keeping technology in a black box is useful to the technical. As long as computers are not only difficult, but also scary, I need them. But, the fact is, I am going to need them anyway because I do not want to become an expert. I’d rather be an expert at growing delicious peppers, making an asplenium flourish, and identifying trees by their smell.

Technologists and hackers have made their way to where they are, in some cases, through trials by fire. They have fought against communities, proven themselves, and hacked their way through impenetrable code and processes in order to become a member of the club. They should have the tools they want. They should be able to have fun and be kind of elitist in their in-group the same way I should be allowed to have fun and be kind of elitist about building a bike, knowing Hume, and having a favorite designer in any given season of Project Runway. But, none of those things should be scary. The mentality that a project being hard is a good thing is not just mean, but detrimental and dangerous.


The ginkgo trees on the main path are yellow. The leaves hang close to the branches and trunk. Several feet in, the trees are still green.

“Microclimates,” someone says to the person they’re walking with. “Totally wacky.”


I found it a little hard to write about rent in Camberville (mostly Somerville) due to the age of the data I found readily available. Additionally, it’s a heated issue. I–and my friends–choose to live here. We pick convenience over cost. Housing is the subject on which we use our energies reserved for being upset, angry, and frustrated over things we feel we can’t do anything about.

That being said, rent here really sucks.

Boston rent is the third most expensive in the US, according to CBS. It is beaten by New York and San Francisco. The majority of residents are renters. We don’t have rent control. The average rent for an average household is over $2,000.

Renters and Owners

The majority of Cambervillans are renters. Renter occupied homes have fewer people, on average, than owner occupied homes. I joke that this is because people are misreporting how many residents a given location has, considering how many people over the age of twenty-one I know who have actual roommates.

Somerville Households (2010 Census Data from American FactFinder)

Owner Occupied Renter Occupied Totals
Housing Units 10,395 21,710 32,105
Population 24,780 48,705 73,485
Average Household Size 2.38 2.24

Cambridge Households (2010 Census Data from American FactFinder)

Owner Occupied Renter Occupied Totals
Housing Units 15,235 28,797 44,032
Population 31,880 56,180 88,060
Average Household Size 2.09 1.95


These numbers come from Wikipedia, where there is a lot of ambiguity on the data. I should probably update it, assuming’s information is more correct. I have both. Unlabeled data is from Wikipedia. All income is gross, except when noted otherwise.

Somerville Cambridge
Household $46,315 $47,979
Household (2010, $64,603 $72,225
Estimated MA Take-Home (2010, $45,114 $49,881
Family $51,243 $59,423
Men $36,333 $43,825
Women $31,418 38,489
Per Capita $23,628 21,156
Per Capita (2010, $33,352 $48,509

I have been told that rent “should be 30% of your [take home] income.” This seems positively insane to me. That is ridiculously high. But, whatever, someone thinks it’s a good idea. Probably someone who owns land that they rent.

By these recommendations, a Somerville household should be paying $19,381/year, or $1,615.08/month. A Cambridge household ought to be paying $21,667.5/year, or $1,805.63/month. For argument’s sake, a Somerville household is 2.25 people, and a Cambridge one 2. This works out to a Somervillian paying $718/month and a Cantabridgian paying $903/month.


I apologize for my rent numbers. They are from Zillow’s positively magnificent rent data. I apologize because they are calculated from September 2014, as opposed to whenever the census was actually taken in 2010. Here are some new assumptions:

  1. Inflation since 2010 has been 9.2%
  2. Estimated Somerville household income is now: $70,521
  3. Estimated Somerville take-home income is now: $49,246
  4. Estimated Cambridge household income is now: $78,841
  5. Estimated Cambridge take-home income is now: $54,450
  6. A typical household is 2 people.
  7. Studio apartments are occupied by a single person earning as much as a household, but ought to cost less than a one-bedroom.
  8. One-bedroom apartments are occupied by 1.5 people earning as much as a single household.
  9. Three-bedroom apartments shall be calculated as 1.5 households, and four-bedroom apartments as 2 households. (Note, many people share their homes with either roommates, housemates, partners, or children. In the case of partners (or children), this could be at a greater cost.)

Median Rental Costs as of September 2014 (

Somerville (estimated) Somerville (actual) Cambridge (estimated) Cambridge (actual)
All homes $2,300 $2,550
Studio <$1,231 $1,500 <$1,361 $2,140
One-bedroom $1,231 $1,760 $1,361 $2,200
Two-bedroom $1,231 $2,200 $1,361 $2,700
Three-bedroom $1,846 $2,600 $2,041 $3,300
Four-bedroom $2,462 $3,200 $2,722 $4,200

There are some problems with my estimates. I mean, lots of problems. One obvious issue is that rent is usually less per room the more rooms there are in the house.


Tufts has 5,232 undergrads (~37% off campus) and 5,651 graduate students. MIT has 4,528 undergrads (~25% live off campus) and 6,773 graduate students. Harvard [College] has 6,722 undergrads (~3% off campus) and 3,871 graduate students.


I don’t know a lot about the actual makeup of Camberville in a “by the numbers” way. Rents in some areas are cheaper than others–by a lot. Both cities have significant populations of poor people (in each city, >10% of the population lives below the poverty line). A number of my friends are hackers, engineers, developers, etc. Glassdoor tells me that the Boston Metro average developer earns $85k/year. I know some freshman engineers who had offers for $90k+benefits. I have friends who earn $500/week teaching children. Graduate student/post-doc stipends in the area range from $8k-35k/year. Massachusetts minimum wage is $8/hour.

Possibly Interesting Things, Some of Which Inspired Me

Something Wrong With Literally Everything In Apartment.” The Onion. March 19, 2011.

Parker, Brock. “Report Warns of Rent Hikes Along Green Line Route in Somerville.” February 12, 2014.

Conti, Katheleen. “In Suburbs, Rents Soar As Vacancy Rates Plummet.” Boston Globe. April 24, 2014.

Kooker, Naomi. “Skyrocketing Rent Has Tenants Searching Outside the City.” Boston Globe. August 17, 2014.


Thanks to Patrick Engelman for pointing out it’s 30% of take home pay, not gross. This also led to me realizing a mistake I made in calculating expected rents. I apologize.

A note added about roommates/sharing homes with partners.

I’d like to acknowledge all my awesome statistician and economist friends who read this and gave useful feedback–leading to the edits.


The sky is dark and the digital clock in Harvard Square tells me there’s still a quarter to go until six. The roads are empty and a few people, those last, barely, and first awake walk down the sidewalk. Pairs huddle together. Two older women hold hands.

My long underwear scratches my legs for the first time since winter gave way to spring in April. The first cold morning has settled on Camberville, bringing with it frost clinging to fallen leaves and clear sunrises.