Drinking when pregnant

The New York Times has an article today on drinking alcohol and pregnancy: The Weighty Responsibility of Drinking for Two. They focused on a couple of themes.  One, how there are no studies about moderate drinking and pregnancy.  All the studies are about five drinks a day or no alcohol.  Two, how society tries to regulate pregnant women drinking.  We are all uncomfortable with pregnant women drinking.  (I have to admit to some of this myself.  Before I got pregnant, I saw a pregnant women at a sushi restaurant and I wondered what she was doing there.  Now I know.  She was probably eating sushi!)

I only had a problem once with someone trying to tell me what I should do when I was pregnant.  (Or should I say tell me what I shouldn’t do.  Don’t drink, don’t lift that, don’t stand there, sit down, etc.)  When I was six months pregnant we went to a really nice restaurant for my birthday.  I decided to get a glass of wine with my dinner to celebrate.  So we ordered two glasses of wine – one for him and one for me.  When the waiter brought them out, he did a double take, sat them down on an empty table and then came over with one glass and put it in front of Frank.  When Frank told him we’d ordered two glasses, he looked at me and said, "Oh, I thought you weren’t drinking." 

Cheap car with good gas mileage: Yaris

I’m not in the market for a car right now but I ran into this one and I was really happy to see a four door car with 40mpg that prices for less than $14,000 new!  Toyota.com : Vehicles : Yaris

If I got 40mpg, I think I’d save $150/month.  The car would be paid for in a year!

12/8/06: Somebody should have pointed out that my math was off by a factor of 10!  The car would be paid off in 10 years.

That said, we went and sat in a Yaris today.  It was a bit narrow for Frank’s shoulders but had room for the car seat.  It had lots of cupholders but manual windows. 

Healthcare: Different Costs for Different Folks

Having had a lot of experience with the health care world lately, I’ve become amazed at how pricing is set.  When trying to pick which insurance company to go with, I called my doctors and the hospital to find out what my expenses would be.  I discovered that what they charge depends on what insurance you have!

Recently our doctor billed us $1230 for a visit and our insurance company agreed to pay $291.92 and the doctor’s office called it good!  I wondered if I could have negotiated it down that much if I’d been paying without insurance.  Well, this guy did too.  He called several hospitals and asked if they would negotiate if he was uninsured.  Here’s what he found out:

# The list price varies by 75% ($1,013 to $3,970).

# The best uninsured price varies by 92% ($204 to $2,600).

# List price discounts range from 0% to 86%.

# To get many of the discounts hospitals offer the balance needs to be paid in full at the time of service or a large down payment made, to receive it.

# Some hospitals are unwilling to divulge the price over the phone and others will not call back.

The details are at HealthCare Advocate Blog � Blog Archive � The Uninsured Patient Experiment.

Early prenatal drinking affects baby’s stress response

Women’s biggest concern about drinking alcohol during pregnancy is "what
about those drinks I had before I knew I was pregnant?"  This is the first study I’ve seen about what affect drinking early in a pregnancy has: MedlinePlus: Prenatal drinking may boost baby’s stress response.  Basically they found that two drinks a day early in pregancy cause a baby’s stress response to be greater than normal.  When you are stressed your heart rate goes up and your stress hormones go up.  That’s bad not only for your health but for your ability to learn.

For the record, there are lots of other things that also affect a person’s stress response.

Mortgages are not good financial investments

I think you should take out a mortgage to buy a house.  It’s much better to be paying off a loan for a house you will eventually own than it is to be paying rent.  However, mortgages are not a "good deal."  Paying off your house is the smarter financial move!  Even if you can deduct the interest from your taxes, you still have to pay the interest first, and deducting it doesn’t mean you get it all back, it just means you don’t pay taxes on that amount of income. (And for people who says they like to borrow money that way and then invest it in something that returns more … well, that’s a risky strategy.  I prefer to invest money I have instead of money I don’t have and would have to pay back if I lost it.)  This guy agrees with me: How Much of Your Car Should You Finance? Zero percent. – iTulip.com Forums.

"But there are tax advantages to holding a mortgage," you say. The government raises a tax on your current income via an income tax, then offers to partially reduce it if you accept a tax on your future income via interest on a government sponsored loan to buy a house that bearly keeps up with the rate of inflation–except during a housing bubble, such as we just experienced. This is what passes for good household finance? How long have North Americans been falling for this nonsense?

When you get to deduct the interest on your mortgage, you are not getting the interest money back!  (Say the top part of your income falls into a 30% tax bracket. If you deduct $10,000 in interest, you would pay $3300 less in taxes.  But you still paid $10,000 in interest, so you still have $6700 less than you would have had without the mortgage!)

To circumcise or not?

I bet many a couple has had the "circumcision" debate but hardly anybody talks about it.  This medical student feels very strongly that boys should not be circumcised and she explains why here: Tales from the Emergency Room and Beyond….

She says that less than 20% of boys in Canada are circumcised.  According to this website, just over half (55.9%) of boys in the United States were circumcised in 2003 but it varies greatly by region from 31.4% in the West to 77.8% in the Northeast.

As I wrote this, I realized that I am very, very anti-female circumcision and not so anti-male circumcision simply because of my culture.  I’m going to have to rethink my values.

$1 Coins Again … and credit cards

The United States is trying dollar coins again: Presidential $1 Coin.  Personally, I think it’s a good idea as one dollar bills get so worn out.  However, I’d rather just use my credit card everywhere.  I think it’s easier (one swipe, never worry about running out of cash) and everything I spend is tracked for me so I can easily analyze my spending.

I do recognize that credit cards are not the best solution for everyone.  I have several friends that have a very hard time controlling their spending with them.  I’ve also read studies that say we spend more when we use credit cards.  I don’t think I do.  I’ve tried spending only cash for a week or two and I think I eat, drink and shop just the same, but I could be wrong … When I spend cash I always have this feeling that I’ve lost some or given too much to someone.   After reading Suze Orman’s 9 Steps to Financial Freedom, I decided that my fear of losing cash might all have started with the time I was 11 and left $40 in a small purse on a table in McDonalds.  The whole ride back to McDonalds, I remember being terrified the money was gone.  It was still there, but I still don’t like having lots of cash that I could lose.  I know with a credit card I can just call and cancel it if it’s lost and I’ve lost nothing!

5-way kidney swap

I decided this post belonged in the social networking category instead of the health category.  Five people that needed a kidney found a relative willing to donate one but in all cases the relative’s kidney wasn’t compatible.  So the five got together and swapped relative’s kidneys!  All 5 got a kidney that worked for them.   5-way kidney swap performed at Hopkins – Yahoo! News.

Young people dressing unprofessionally?

The New York Times has an essay about young doctors dressing inappropriately, showing too much skin, wearing casual clothes and in general, not wearing traditional professional doctor attire. When Young Doctors Strut Too Much of Their Stuff – New York Times.  They sited studies that showed that doctors wearing a suit and white lab coat made patients more confident and more likely to confide in their doctors. 

I’d argue that this is a problem that is not unique to doctors.  Walking down the street, I see a lot more skin on young people than I think I used to.  (Or am I just getting old?)  And I see young people at work in the computer industry wearing shirts that show their midriff or sandals that show their toes.  I’m taking massage classes at a professional massage school and the younger students are constantly challenging the dress code.  Personally, I have a hard time understanding why they aren’t willing to wear shirts that cover their tummies (doesn’t massage have a dicey enough reputation without adding to it?) but I can’t argue that they are just dressing the way the rest of their cohort does.

So is our idea of professional attire outdated?  Will the new generation change that definition?  Or will they eventually conform with our norms and start covering up some more skin and wearing suits or business casual or whatever is appropriate for their profession?

Personally, if you told me I’d be more successful dressing a different way because my clients, patients, or customers would trust me more and confide in me, I’d change the way I dressed.  Would you?