Friday, March 27, 2009

Budget - Saving Money

Like most people I have been thinking about the economy, incomes and budgets. Both my husband and I work on contract; he as a mobile computer programmer and I as a research and developer. Which means we do not get paid weekly, biweekly or even monthly. We get paid when we sign contracts only. We get contracts when someone (or a company) needs to hire someone, like one of us, to do a job. If they do not need us or choose to go without, we also go without. Hence staying on budget.

We were thinking of different ways we can hedge against the next two years of economic shortfall. We live two blocks from our grocery store food co-op, so no transportation cost, other than calories burned from walking. Though the large grocery store is a 10 minute bus ride away. ( We have no car, meaning no car payments, insurance payments, gasoline costs, repair costs or the once upon a time many parking ticket costs.) We have a water filter attached to our faucet. So we do not pay bottle water prices. We already buy bulk foods such as dried beans, dried fruit (currents, raisins, mango), and love our complex carbohydrates (pastas, brown rice, granola). We cook foods that are in season; asparagus in spring, squash in the fall, etc. We buy by the case from on-line stores such as, Ecocover and Seventh Generation for all our toilet paper, baby wipes, diapers, laundry detergent and dish washing detergent. The cases are delivered to our door free of charge.

I pay less per eco-friendly toilet paper roll or diaper then the leading non-eco-friendly product. And I did not even have to leave my house. This is a major convenience when long shopping trips, via city bus, with a toddler, is not how I want to spend an afternoon. Because I buy on-line and ship many things to my house, on the occasions I do need to go to the grocery store, I can fit everything in a shopping basket and get through the 15 items-or-less cash out line.

But what made me think to write this post is that I just finished filling out our contract for a Community Supported Farm share (CSF). What happens is a local farmer will offer a portion of his/her crops in exchange for us paying up front. For us that means about $1000 for a family's worth of veggies for a YEAR ! We drop that kind of cash on veggies in half a year. This farm we are joining is an organic farm that practices sustainable farming, e.g. they use compost (which is fermented leaves, grass, and plant clippings) as fertilizer and they do not spray pesticides or herbicides. A 20 week fruit share (think "supply") runs a little over $200. Still, this is nothing had we bought these foods at a grocery store. What is better? The farmer drives into the city, to designated drop off points. I meet them at one of these points, which for me is a total of 2 and half city blocks. I find this convenient. What is even better then this ??? My child learns that fruits and veggies do not grow in stores, that there is a farmer who cares and takes pride in the healthy food they produce. My toddler can meet the farmer ! Too cool. This adds depth to her understanding, meaning to how the world works and community.

Making friends and expanding ones community can add to ones happiness. Like I said before, my husband and I have high tech lives. Good food, slow food, enjoying cooking, chatting with the farmer as he hands us our purchase is a healthy distraction from the looming, downsizing economy. Plus we have food, regardless of our income for a year, at half off the grocery store price.

We did this slowly over the last 3 years. First went the car, then we got the water filter, then we bought all our bulk baby items on-line....we figured out how to cook dried beans...etc. It can take some time. We focused on one thing at a time and it all added up quickly. The savings and slower pace are luxury.

Now, if only they had shares in chocolate !

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Buffalo - A Niche

Buffalo is like a niche product. It fills a gap that is missing in the United States. It can not be summed up in few words but I found out after traveling to cities from the likes of Shanghai, Tokyo, Milan, San Fransisco and Toronto, that finding a city that is so satisfying to live in are far and few.

Some words I can used to describe Buffalo, NY are; human, theater lover, music lover, festival enthusiast, architectural exhibitionist, food and kitchen obsessed, college students everywhere, ethnic diversity welcomed, a small business incubator and we have our share of competitive highschools.

Areas that we are lacking are: The city school system has many good and great schools but as a whole needs a lift. If you need an expensive home that cost more than one million dollars to sink the capital gains you just scored into then we are lacking. Public bus transportation can improve and our metro train is limited. The spring and fall can feel too short. The east side of Buffalo has many empty houses, 10,000 of them. They need to be rehabbed or taken down by Buffalo Reuse.

These are some facts and surveys done on Buffalo.

Second largest city in NY state
Population as of 2005: 276,059
Diversity as of 2000: African American 39.3%, Latino 8.3%, Asian 1.8%
Median family income: 36,700
Median cost of home: 74,000

Student Teacher ratio in City schools 13 to 1
Schools: 78 Public, 47 private, Charter
Magnet (specialty) Public High School: 11, including specialties like art, finance, honors, bilingual, etc
University/College: 7 private, 2 state, one junior college (three campuses)
City Honors Public High School is ranked 8th in the nation.

Jobs - in private industry

Company.................................Industry.............................No. of Employed
Kaleida Health Health Care 10,000
Catholic Health System Health Care 8,400
HSBC Bank USA N.A. Commercial Bank 5,848
Employer Services Corp. Employment-related services 4,880
M&T Bank Commercial Bank 4,820
Tops Markets LLC Supermarket Retailer 4,673
Seneca Gaming Corp. Entertainment 4,020
Catholic Diocese of Buffalo Parishes, schools, and institutions 3,700
Wegmans Food Markets Inc. Supermarket Retailer 3,288
Roswell Park Cancer Institute Hospital 2,699

"Buffalo is home to over 50 private and public art galleries[54] , most notably the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, home to a world-class collection of modern and contemporary art. The local art scene is also enhanced by the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, CEPA, and many small galleries and studios.[55][56]"

Buffalo has over 20 theaters including Shea's performing Arts Theater, Irish Classical Theater, and Alleyway Theater.

Water - Sailing / boating / Crew
"Buffalo is at the eastern end of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes, which boasts the greatest variety of freshwater sportfish in the country. The Lake serves as a playground for numerous personal yachts, sailboats, power boats and watercraft, and provides a short water route to excellent sand beaches on the nearby Ontario (Canada) shore. The city has an extensive breakwall system protecting its inner and outer Lake Erie harbors, which are maintained at commercial navigation depths for Great Lakes freighters."

Night Life
"Several distinct and thriving nightlife districts have grown around clusters of bars and nightclubs in the city. The most visible nightlife district is West Chippewa Street[61], located between Main Street and South Elmwood Avenue. The area is home to high-energy dance clubs, crowded bars, trendy coffeehouses, and restaurants. Allentown, where bars are as numerous but the atmosphere is a bit more relaxed, is a several minute walk north to Allen Street. Allen Street near Main Street houses several gay bars, while Allen near Elmwood has many bars that feature live music. Continuing up Elmwood Avenue from Allentown is the Elmwood Strip, which runs about two miles to Buffalo State College. This strip has numerous small boutiques and restaurants, with few large corporate establishments. Crowds on this strip include everyone from college students to families to the elderly."

Ski Resorts
We have 13 ski resorts within a 100miles of the city.

Buffalo has had top ten rankings:

Forbes Magazine - First (1st) for The Perfect Commute
Half of the workers in the Buffalo metro spend that time or less getting to work, and drivers experience only 10 hours of annual delays, according to the Texas Transportation Institute. Of cities with over 500,000 commuters, fewer people spend an hour or more getting to work in Buffalo than anywhere else in the country.

Forbes Magazine - Fourth (4th) strongest housing market
Buffalo home owners are poised to not be hit hard by the housing downturn. Housing values rose during the bubble but at a marathoners spead rather then the sprinters pace the rest of the U.S. This is allowing Buffalo's housing values to stanbelize.

"The quarterly NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) stated that nearly 90% of the new and existing homes sold in the metropolitan area during the second quarter were affordable to families making the area's median income of $57,000. The area median price of homes was $75,000."

Newsweek - National Public School Ranking

"The rigorous college preparatory curriculum at Buffalo's City Honors School has landed it at the head of the class in a Newsweek magazine ranking of the country's top high schools. Newsweek's 2006 list of "America's Best High Schools" ranks City Honors No. 4 on its list of the nation's 1,000 top schools. The high school rankings are the cover story of the publication's current issue"

Medical Jobs and Facilities

"Buffalo has increasingly become a center for bioinformatics and human genome research, including work by researchers at the University at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. This consortium is known as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It also includes: Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, Buffalo Medical Group Foundation, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, Kaleida Health, Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired, Cleveland BioLabs and Upstate New York Transplant Services."

The American Planning Association - 3rd Best Neighborhood to Live - 2007
The Elmwoodvillage, a neigborhood in Buffalo, NY, was ranked the best place to live.

AmericanStyle - Art Destination
"Ranked Buffalo fourth (4th) in its list of America's top art destinations."

Air Quality - 86% of a year has good quality ! - 2008
For a medium to large city to have 86% of its days having good air quality is a big deal. This is a significant change in the last 3 years.

USA Today - 2001
Named Buffalo the winner of its "City with a Heart" contest, proclaiming it the nation's "friendliest city."

Doctor Shortage and Types of Doctors

I have been reading about the shortage of doctors in the United States. I started thinking about this subject when I was trying to find an obstetrician, then pediatrician and then again with a family doctor...still looking for the later. I would also like to point out that there is a shortage of Registered Nurses (RN) and Licensed Practicing Nurse (LPN). In addition to the Medical Doctor (MD) shortage there are even fewer Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine Doctors (DO) or Naturopathic Doctors (ND). This is unfortunate.

Here is some information I pulled from other websites.

The Shortage

Here are some statistics and background information on the medical world in general from an article in USAToday.

"The country needs to train 3,000 to 10,000 more physicians a year — up from the current 25,000 — to meet the growing medical needs of an aging, wealthy nation, the studies say. Because it takes 10 years to train a doctor, the nation will have a shortage of 85,000 to 200,000 doctors in 2020 unless action is taken soon."

"The nation now has about 800,000 active physicians, up from 500,000 20 years ago. They've been kept busy by a growing population and new procedures ranging from heart stents to liposuction."

"To become a physician, students spend four years in medical school (two years graduate school with two year in rotation). Graduates then spend three to seven years training as residents, usually treating patients under supervision at a hospital. Residents work long hours (80 hours per week) for $35,000 to $50,000 a year. Even doctors trained in other countries must serve medical residencies in the USA to practice here."

"Some medical policy specialists say the USA doesn't have too few doctors, just poor distribution of them.

"We have more and more physicians taking care of fewer and fewer patients," says Kevin Grumbach, chairman of family and community medicine at San Francisco General Hospital.

He says doctors gravitate to high-paying practices — such as sports medicine and total body scans — that serve the wealthy and well-insured at the expense of Medicare patients and others.

"It's wrong to think that we can produce more physicians and have them trickle down to where they are needed," says Grumbach, who favors a government-run, national health care system. "Investing billions of dollars to produce more doctors is a foolish way to spend money."

I appreciate the idea that a person should be able to choose where they want to work though, those doctors that choose to locate in "doctor scarce" rural or urban areas should get an "inkind" bonus. The inkind could be that the municipality or state helps the doctor locate and secure a medical building - preferably on a bus line.

and The Acronyms Associated with them

MD = Medicine Doctor

Recognized as a physician in all states

DO = Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

Recognized as a physician in all states

ND = Naturopathic Doctor of Medicine

Recognized as a physician in Arizona. Considered a licensed medical practitioner in 16 states, the district of Columbia and five Canadian Provinces. There are two types of Naturopath; Naturopaths and Traditional Naturopaths. I think the issue of two types of Naturopaths is what caused not all states to adopt Naturopaths.

In these above mentioned jurisdictions, naturopathic doctors must pass comprehensive board exams set by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)[25] after having completed academic and clinical training at a college certified by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME).[26] The letters ND usually designate a naturopathic doctor in jurisdictions where such a title is protected by law, although other designations exist. In unregulated jurisdictions, the ND title is not protected and may be used by any practitioner regardless of qualifications.

Just make sure your doctor has passed their board exams and

CMD = Chinese Medicine Doctor

CMD is not recognized as a physician without a MD or DO degree in the United States, though these doctors practice in over a hundred other countries. This is unfortunate because the CMD physicians education is a thousand (yes I said 1000) years old. They are well respected physicians in the rest of the world. The World Health Organisation uses CMD practitioners as physicians just as they would MDs and DOs. The U.S. has a tendency to be behind in medical science based on the many studies I have read, for example Chiropractic services took a long time to adapt in the U.S. and become registered. At one time going for a massage was considered a luxury, not a therapy as it is now viewed. A person who who went for a jog on purpose, with no destination, was considered a person who "has loss a few marbles." So, CMD not being recognized in the U.S. is not surprising.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"I only turned away for a minute"

This question caught my attention, "When can my child bathe alone?" Many caregivers asked this question because the cleaning of the child often lasted only 5 minutes and the play time last another 30. Many caregivers often want to attend to other "chores" while the child plays.

The first thing I will mentioned is that, the Consumer Federation of America and 8 other group petitioned, in 2000, to the Consumer Product Safety Commission for a ban on "Bath Seats" citing that it leads to a false seance of security and has lead to 8 deaths a year and over a 100 injuries. These were easily preventable.

In another report I found this information. "Unintentional drownings cause over 600 deaths annually among children 5 years old and younger. Bathtubs are one of the leading sites for such drownings for children 2 years of age and especially for children 1 year or younger." When these parents were questioned 31% of the respondents admitted to leaving their child alone in the bathtub. The mean age of the child was 37.5 months (3 yrs 1 mo. old). The most common excuse given for leaving the child was to retrieve a towel, diaper, answer the phone or cook dinner. Five of these injured children were left alone with another child under 10 years old. The less then 10 year old was meant to be the supervisor.

Conclusion: The children, at 5 years or younger, who had parents that left the bathroom were deemed "inadequately supervised". Th parents were then labeled as those who should "be advised concerning proper supervision in early anticipatory guidance." In other words these parents lacked the education and understanding that a five year old has not developed enough to navigate in and around water, in problem situations. "Reported Level of Supervision of Young Children While in the Bathtub"
Ambulatory Pediatrics, Volume 3

Third, According to the Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison prevention, Studies have shown that a 0-4 year old child can not navigate water environments well enough to be left alone. Citing that parents will leave a child to answer the phone, door, or retrieve a towel. It has been determined that these and other reasons will not be excepted as excuses for leaving a child four and under in or near water of 5 gallons or more. American Academy of Pediatric

The above is what I found on the internet. Often, I think, caregivers do not want to "just sit and watch" their child in the tub when they feel like other works "needs" to be done. Instead of thinking that bathing your child is a "chore" consider playing with the child and their toys. Or if you do not want to do that you can clean the bathroom while your child plays. You could bring in a magazine or read.

But think of it this way, all the work you are doing is mostly for your family, right? All the cooking, cleaning, and toweling off of wet bodies. If your child slips, that 30 seconds it takes you to run into the bathroom to assess what happened, then another minute goes by while you try to find your phone so you can call 911 could take too long, then you will no longer have a family to worry about. Was that extra cleaning you did worth it?