Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Recipes from Rattana

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

What colour is your taste?

Ask your local US Consul

Family Money: Making It On Your Own - Part 1

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

Many expatriates in Pattaya have started their own businesses, or bought someone else’s. No matter whether the business is a beer bar, or trades in goods, or provides services, there are a lot of risks involved with starting one’s own business.

It is sobering to note that in the developed world, over 40% of all new businesses fail within the first two years. In Pattaya the failure rate is probably well over 50%.

The question then arises: Why?

Fundamentally, the success of any business depends on making more money than it spends. Many entrepreneurs get a bright idea, scrape together enough capital to open shop and hope that they’ll be successful.

Often, they know little if anything about accounting; cash-flow analysis or budgeting. They leave these matters to others and get by somehow, often living from hand to mouth, day to day. They have no idea whether their business is financially sound, or even where the money is coming from or going to.

Business runs on numbers

Any businessman who doesn’t know the state of his company’s finances is not a businessman. (He may be a superb salesman, or engineer, or technician - but he’s not a businessman.) And any business that doesn’t make a profit isn’t a business.

In fact, every business runs on the numbers. The CEO may also have a good understanding of marketing or engineering or other areas relevant to his own business - but the common denominator is a good understanding of money and corporate financial planning.

The same basic understanding of cash-flows and accounting for where the money comes from and goes to applies both to very large and very small firms (and all sizes in between.)

Speak of demographics’ analysis to many entrepreneurs and you get a blank look. They have no idea of their target market, who their customers might be, where they are, or how to attract them. Their marketing strategies are often ill-planned - if they even have one. In some cases they might like to increase their market exposure through a marketing campaign or advertising, but simply don’t have the money to spend.

Of course, beer-bar owners will say that they don’t need all this technical nonsense - they just sit and wait for the customers to come in - and a trip along Second Road or Beach Road any evening might lead you to think that this is a business which cannot fail. Why then are there always lots of bars and restaurants for sale?

“Location,” you might say. “That’s the only thing you need worry about in the bar or restaurant business.” Okay, location is indeed a very important factor. But why then does one establishment do well and stay in business year after year and another right across the road never has any customers and closes up after just a few months?

Many failing entrepreneurs would tend to put the blame solely on external factors, and be unwilling to consider factors somewhat closer to home which would be more painful to accept. But this is not the place to go into those reasons.

I know how tough it is to run one’s own business - tougher than managing someone else’s. Having been an entrepreneur myself, then working with a substantial international organization for several years, and then choosing to become an entrepreneur again, I have had the opportunity to look at both sides of the business coin, and learned a few valuable lessons along the way.

Ingredients of success

>From what I’ve seen and learned, the main ingredients for successful entrepreneurship are: Attitude; Belief; Courage; Determination; Effort; Finances.

Courage is what one needs to get going in the first place. Many would-be entrepreneurs simply don’t have the courage to leave their relatively safe salaried position to risk their own and their families’ futures on what may or may not be a successful business venture.

Having decided to take that first step - which is in fact a giant leap into what is often uncharted territory - they have to have Belief in themselves, the product or service they will be offering, plus the Determination to succeed - the will to win.

The Effort they put in will go a long way to determining the growth and success or otherwise of their venture. Sitting on the beach watching the world go by will probably not produce much business - unless you’re in the ‘kao pat’ or ice-cream vending business.

Most successful entrepreneurs work harder and longer than when they worked for someone else. But working for oneself brings its own rewards, both spiritually and financially, and one keeps the profits of one’s efforts.

Attitude towards one’s business and one’s customers will also have a great bearing on an entrepreneur’s success.

People are generally turned off by a couldn’t-give-a-damn attitude and second-rate service, and are unlikely to become regular customers. Negative reports to others on poor attitude or service can also lose potential customers. Those entrepreneurs who “try harder” (to borrow Avis’ motto) and set high standards of service - especially in an area where mediocrity seems to be the norm - are more likely to thrive and become successful.

A positive attitude towards the locale helps also. It is difficult to have continued confidence in an entrepreneur who is constantly bemoaning his situation, running down Pattaya, Thailand, and the people, and cannot wait for the opportunity to sell out and get away to yet another greener pasture.

But who forced him to set up here? One doesn’t have to look at the situation through rose-coloured spectacles (which some entrepreneurs were evidently still wearing when they originally decided to stay here) and pretend everything is perfect.

Those of us who have chosen Thailand as our home may enjoy the many benefits this place has to offer more, and tolerate its negative aspects better, if we keep in mind those wise words of St. Francis: to pray for the courage to change what one can, the patience to accept what one cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

(To be continued next week)


Personal Directions: Finding peace of mind amidst today’s madness

By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Asia Training Associates

So many people I know these days just roll their eyes back and shake their heads when they turn on the television or open the newspaper in the morning. The headlines shriek out in large black type - of nuclear weapons, diplomatic threats, individual crimes, government abuses and so on!

So loud is the shrieking that we think - “it’s just impossible to relax in this world. There’s too much trouble everywhere and it’s gotten out of hand.”

But the thing is, we can relax. We can create peace of mind even when others reel with anxiety. Tension is nothing new. The world has seen many troubled days throughout history and strife has always been part of the fabric of society. We may not enjoy it, but it is a fact that we live and we survive amidst incredible turmoil.

We learn to live with these pressures and even to win out in the pressure-cooker world we have created. Our life is not worthwhile if we cannot attain a feeling of solitude, of quietness. We must bed down with our souls and breath in gentle tranquility.

In the words of the great Greek philosopher Plato, “Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.”

And we can learn to be calm. First off, we must believe that a state of inner calm is a realizable goal. It may not be easy for those of us who are used to having jumpy, pushy, frantic people around us. We may think that “calm” is an unattainable state. It is not.

Millions of people torture themselves with anxiety. Indecisive and fearful, they cannot accept their feelings and shortcomings. It is difficult for them to make up their minds about anything, and they feel guilty over what they regard as their failures in life. They act too impulsively - or are afraid to act at all. Anxiety becomes a way of life for them and they know nothing of the feelings of success and confidence.

In the fight to become calm - and yes, for some of us it is a fight - we have to start off by accepting our anxieties, not blaming ourselves for them because blame is a very destructive force. The more secure our self acceptance is, the more we can come to peace with ourselves, with our weaknesses, the more attainable is the goal of calmness.

A pleasant room in your mind

When you were a child, did you have a favourite room to which you went when you were unhappy with the rest of the world? Maybe it was furnished cozily with soft-cushioned chairs and throw rugs and your most treasured possessions.

This is what each of us needs - a serene room in our own mind - a retreat in which to nurse our wounds when the strains of the world become unbearable. In the seclusion of this peaceful chamber in our mind, we can recuperate from life’s fast pace, refresh ourselves for the new day to come. In this little mental compartment we can make peace with ourselves, accepting our insecurities, re-picturing our most cherished memories, setting our present goals, imaging a future full of life, faith and hope, free of resentment and worry.

Take a daily vacation

Normally we limit our vacation time to a few weeks in the year, and some of us take them all at once while others spread them out over a period of time. What is important is not to take a vacation such as this - but to take a vacation every day. Not once in a while, but every day. Every day take a flight into the freedom you can give in the quiet room of your mind.

It doesn’t have to be for a lengthy period because we all have daily responsibilities to attend to. But it can be a period of time just long enough to enable us to escape from the shackles of civilization, re-affirm our convictions and return to the realities with increased vigor and energy.

Don’t be afraid of “escapism”

Some people frown on the word “escapism”. They think it is cowardly and that we should face up to everything front on! To live a happy life, we must come to grips with reality; anything else is an evasion and a misuse of productive energies. But it is a fatal mistake to feel that this is a twenty-four hour-a-day task. If we take ourselves this seriously we will always be tense. We will be able to tackle our problems more forcefully if we are able to relax and to re-invigorate ourselves with restful sleep. Sometimes “escaping from it all” can be a big help to the busiest and most successful person.

Never be afraid to “escape” and never look upon it as a waste of time!

I am not talking here about harmful, self-destructive mechanisms of escape. I am talking about positive and wholesome, up-lifting mechanisms such as relaxing in the quiet room of your mind, listening to soothing and almost caressing music, taking yourself on an enlightening holiday, giving yourself the time to read the books you’ve always put aside because everything else was more important.

These and others ways to escape are refreshing to the soul and provide nourishment that will enable you to function more effectively in the swift-moving world we live in. Without these safety valves, we are very similar to a pressure cooker that is about to explode!

Sometimes a change of pace can do you good and this is why so many people love to travel. New images of known or unknown places bring refreshment to the mind. Sometimes travel can help to solve problems. It stops us from “thinking too much”. And it’s true. When we have to make decisions in our busy lives we spend so much time thinking that we never get to make the decisions! Forcing thinking and decision making does more harm than good.

For more information on this subject and other matters relating to personal growth and development, please contact me by email at [email protected] com and visit Asia Training Associates at www.asiatrain ingassociates.com. Until next time, have a wonderful week.


The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Cancer rates increase - are we all going to croak?

by Dr. Iain Corness

According to the American Cancer Society, the number of new U.S. cancer cases is expected to increase 3.8 percent, to a record 1.33 million this year, but the death rates for the top four killer cancers will decline.

These seemingly paradoxical statements need to be looked at a little further to get the true picture of what is happening. Remembering always that there are lies, damned lies and statistics!

What has also to be remembered is that cancer, by and large, is a disease of aging. If more of us get to “old age”, there will be more of us likely to begin to develop cancers of all types. That being the case, the number of new cancer cases will increase as well, and eventually we all have to die of something, and in the US it is most likely to be heart disease, followed by cancers of all types.

In the American scenario, cancer deaths are expected to rise this year to 556,500 from 555,500 last year, but the increase reflects the aging of the American population, the cancer society says in its annual Cancer Facts & Figures report.

Now, what about the fact that death rates are supposed to be declining for lung, breast, colon and prostate cancer? This is correct, as we (the medical fraternity) are developing new anti-cancer drugs, and new invasive and non-invasive techniques to combat Jack the Dancer. We can diagnose the condition faster and have more ways of dealing with it. In fact, the five year survival rate for all cancers (except non-melanoma skin cancer and most non-invasive cancers) is expected to be 62 percent. That just means that 62 percent of people diagnosed with cancer will still be alive 5 years later. Please note, that is not a guarantee for longevity if you get diagnosed with cancer aged 103!

So which cancers are the top killers? In the USA, lung cancer is expected to claim 157,200 lives this year; colorectal cancer, 57,100; breast cancer 39,800; and prostate cancer, 28,900. The society predicts new cases of lung cancer in 2003 will total 171,900; colorectal cancer, 147,500; breast cancer, 211,300; and prostate cancer, 220,900. In America this is equivalent to around 1,500 lives every day.

Again, according to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use remains the most preventable cause of death and is expected to account for 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. Read those figures again - 87 out of every 100 lung cancer cases are related to smoking. America-wide, about 23 percent of adults over 18 smoke and Kentucky has the highest percentage of adult smokers, about 31 percent, and also the highest lung cancer death rate in men. How strange! Quite frankly, I don’t care how much the cigarette smokers whinge about the new restaurant regulations in this country - the government has done them a favour, and for the non-smokers who no longer have to run the risk of getting lung cancer through atmospheric pollution from their second-hand cigarette smoke, called passive smoking.

The American Cancer Society also stresses early detection through screening for breast, colon, rectal, prostate and uterine cancer. And it recommends cancer-related checkups that can detect thyroid, oral, skin, lymph node, testicular and ovarian cancers. I can only say I agree wholeheartedly.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,

The other morning I picked up my husband’s clothes which he had left in the bathroom, having been out for a night on the town with the boys. In the pocket there were some little diamond shaped blue pills. I did not say anything to him about this, as I didn’t want him to think I go through his pockets, but this has worried me. Are these the pills they call “ya ba”? I know there is a crackdown on all kinds of drugs at present. Do you think he is an addict and should I force him to go and see a doctor?

Worried Wife

Dear WW,

You are having me on, aren’t you, my Petal. Let me reassure you that illegal drugs such as ya ba do not come in neat blue diamonds, but the ones you have found are much more likely to be “Yah Hoo!” pills. These have been analysed and are found to contain 3% Vitamin E, 2% Aspirin, 2% Ibuprofen, 1% Vitamin C, 5% Spray Starch and 87% Fix-A-Flat. Suggest you give him some condoms before his next boys night out and say, “These will go with your medication, dear.”

Dear Hillary,

My wife (Thai) and I are expecting our first child sometime soon. We are very happy about this, but have started to argue over the name of the baby. I want him (we had a test to see what sex the baby is) to have a British name, but Noi wants him to have a Thai name. For once, Noi has really not left me any choice here and it is souring our relationship. She thinks that anyone like you who writes for the newspapers has to be clever, and I said I would ask you what you thought. Have you the answer to my problems?

Greg

Dear Greg,

The only person who is important in this dispute is the child, not you and not Noi. One good aspect of living here is that if a child hates his or her name, he or she can change it very easily. Now if you and Noi will just stop bickering and look sensibly at this, why not give your son and heir a name that fits into both English and Thai? Something like Tam, Ric or Nat. There’s lots of names out there, but it’s time you pair got together and worked it out, rather than referring such miniscule “problems” to someone like me, no matter how “clever” your Noi thinks I am. Which I am, of course!

Dear Hillary,

I want to lose some weight. About 6 or 7 kilos, that’s all, and around the tummy mainly, but I have tried many diets in the past and they don’t seem to work on me. I do like to snack, but it is because I get so hungry. Have you any guaranteed way I can lose weight? I am going to England in one month and want to get it off before I get there.

Poompui

Dear Poompui,

What am I now? A dietician too! (Mr. Editor, please note, I want a raise if I am expected to be capable of multi-tasking!) You want guarantees, my Petal? I can certainly give you a guaranteed way that you can lose several kilos of ugly fat immediately - just chop off your arm. Come off it, Poompui. You know that the only way to lose weight is to watch what you eat and exercise more. Try eating water beetles or deep fried scorpions for breakfast - that should turn your tummy off food for the rest of the day! It’s time you took responsibility for your own weight. I am sure nobody is force feeding you, are they? Watch your food - watch it, don’t eat it!

Dear Hillary,

One of the office girls is always asking me for advice on this and that. She never manages to keep a boyfriend and it is always tales of tragedy and questions as to what she should do about it. Should she go to live with him? Should she not? Should she go out with someone else? I have been fairly patient up till now, but the daily agony is starting to get me down, and the other workers are now talking about me behind my back because she is always in my office. The last thing I need is this sort of rubbish. I am also a bit worried that the wife might hear about this and take it the wrong way. What should I do to get this girl to stop? I don’t want to add to her problems, she seems to have enough already.

The Shoulder

Dear Shoulder,

You know what to do to get out of this, just as you knew what was likely to happen when you got into this! Having let it get this far you are going to have to be fairly blunt, and every time she appears just smile and say you are too busy right now and please come back tomorrow when you might have more time. She will get the message and you will be able to sleep peacefully at night - until the next office girl knocks on the door.


Camera Class: Better portraits - the 10 golden rules

by Snapshot

What do people take most photographs of? Simple - people! Now how many of your people shots are great? How many are average? And how many are just OK and get left in photo files in the drawer? For most people, their people shots tend to be of the last category. However, do not despair, this week I give you the 10 golden rules, so that you too can get results just like the local “professional” photo shop. It doesn’t depend upon what type of camera you have, it just needs you to do a little planning.

Rule 1. Walk in closer. It is the single most important tip to better portraits. Even with a point and shoot compact, walk in till the subject fills the viewfinder from the waist up.

Rule 2. If you have a camera with a “portrait mode” then use it! This is one area where Harry and the manufacturers agree. The portrait mode with modern cameras does work. It maximises the settings to produce the most pleasing effect, gets rid of backgrounds and sets the exposure to allow for the best skin tones. Use it.

Rule 3. Use the flash in daylight. If you have a fancy camera with “Fill Flash” facility, then turn it on and you will see the prints you get back from the photo processor have now got sparkle and punch. If you have not, but have a flash you mount on top of the camera, use it, and turn it to around f2.8 to f4. This will not overpower the daylight, but will give catch-lights in the eyes.

Rule 4. Watch for horrible backgrounds. It is so easy to concentrate so hard on the subject that you do not really “see” the background, which can be confusing and cluttered. Try to keep the subject as far away as possible from all backgrounds and if you have manual mode or aperture priority mode, then set the aperture f-stop at around f5.6.

Rule 5. Shoot in the early mornings or in the late afternoons. At both of these times the light is more flattering than it is at mid-day, where you will get harsh shadows cutting across the face from the nose.

Rule 6. If you have a zoom or a telephoto lens then now is the time! Using around 135 mm, this is called by some people the ideal portrait lens, then you again flatter the face and help throw the background out of focus - particularly if you have followed Rule number 4.

Rule 7. Turn the camera on its side so you have the viewfinder in portrait mode as well. People are taller than they are wide, so it makes sense to have the maximum dimension vertically, doesn’t it! By all means, take a couple of shots in the so-called horizontal “landscape” view, but the majority should be verticals.

Rule 8. The nose is not the central point of any portrait. In the centre of the viewfinder there is generally a small area which you can use for getting the focus point. After you have set the focus, move the central point off the person’s nose! The more likely central point will be the mouth or chin.

Rule 9. Super trick! Use a gold coloured reflector to give the skin that healthy glow. Just glue some gold wrapping paper to a piece of cardboard about 1 metre square and get an assistant to move it so it reflects “golden glow” into the subject. This is particularly flattering for pale skinned folk.

Rule 10. With older subjects stretch a piece of nylon stocking tightly across the lens. This will act as a soft focus filter and smooth out many of the wrinkles we like to pretend we haven’t got!

Follow those ten simple hints and you will soon be taking shots as good as, if not better than the local neighbourhood portrait photographer. After all, he’s only following those 10 steps as well.


Recipes from Rattana: Elephant and Rabbit Stew

This recipe I have published before, but after stumbling over it again and chuckling to myself, I thought I should reprint it. Originally it was given to me by David Levine, an executive chef. The principal ingredient is freely available in Thailand, and in fact, you would probably be in line for a City Administration grant if you took a couple from the streets any night. The rabbits are harder to find, but I believe you can get them on special order at most supermarkets. David did say that if you want to try this item, you must plan well in advance to allow for preparation and cooking. It is not a quick stir-fry in the wok.

Ingredients Serves 3000

Elephant 1 large

Pepper 1/2 pail

Salt 2 pails

Onions 4 bushels

Water 93 gallons

Flour 6 pails

Rabbits (optional) 2

Cooking Method

Cut elephant into bite sized pieces - preferably put aside around four months for this part. Cook over a kerosene fire for three months, or until tender. Now add onions, salt, pepper and flour and cook until done, generally around two days. If more people arrive than expected then add the rabbits at this final stage (do this only if necessary as most people don’t like hare in their soup).


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

By Dr Byte, Citec Asia

Q: Dear Dr Byte, when I first got my new PC from the Computer Shop, everything was fine, but after two days it started hanging during use. I performed a system restore and this cured the problem, but only for one more day or so. Is the problem to do with memory or something else? Frustrated, Mae Dtaeng, Chiang Mai.

A: Dear Frustrated, yes I can see why you are frustrated. Isn’t it a pain when you spend on a new PC from a reputable dealer and it starts to have gremlins within a couple of days? Actually it’s impossible to answer your question without having a look at the PC, but the symptoms you describe are probably caused by a hardware problem - perhaps a fault or more probably the CPU fan has failed and the chip is overheating. I really doubt it’s a software problem. Since it is a new PC and the fault is easy to reproduce, I suggest that you take it back to the dealer where you got it and have them repair it while under warranty.

Q: Dear Dr Byte, I want to ask about a printer problem and hope you can answer this one. My HP Deskjet 890C works fine on my Windows 98 PC, but, when I connect it to a Windows XP machine, it prints a portion of a page and then the Deskjet gives up and starts to feed blank pages through. Sometimes the blank pages have one or two lines of symbols and garbage on them. I have to turn the printer off or remove the paper tray to stop it printing on and on. Windows XP has a driver for my printer and HP says that there is no better version of the driver available. Can you help? Ratchadamnoen Road, Chiang Mai.

A: It sounds like a data communication error between the PC and the printer. If a command is garbled, the printer will interpret what is supposed to be graphical data as text. This is why you get blank pages or you get pages with garbage printed on them. Resolving the problem involves checking the Parallel Port Configuration and tweaking the BIOS. If this fails, testing cables and ports may identify the problem. It’s interesting that the printer works on one PC but not on another. I suggest that you take the Windows XP PC and printer to a reputable technician to check it out for you.

Q: Dear Dr Byte, my PC has a small problem. The grey area at the bottom of the screen, the grey area that has that funny Start Button which you use to Shut Down, has grown in size and is now taking up more than half my screen. I have set Autohide on, but as soon as I move the mouse near the bottom of the screen, this grey area with the Start Button for Shutting Down covers most of the Desktop. Can I return the grey area back to the size it used to be or is this some kind of new virus? Anxious, Chiang Mai Gate, Chiang Mai.

A: Dear Anxious, your computer is fine and your not being attacked by any strange gremlins. The grey area you can see is called the Task Bar. Move the mouse to the bottom of the screen to bring the Task Bar up, and then slowly move the mouse to the top edge. You will see the Cursor change to a little double-headed arrow, which means you can resize it. Press and hold down the Left Mouse Button, and then drag the top edge of the Task Bar down until it is the size you want. At some time you must have accidentally dragged it in the opposite direction to make it the size it is now.

Q: Dear Dr Byte, believe it or not, I live on the east coast of Queensland and I read your column (and Chiangmai Mail online) here every week through the Chiangmai Mail Website. Well done everyone, it’s great. I have a question for you. I have been trying to send my daughter an email attachment. She has a Hotmail account with the standard Hotmail limited e-mail gateway and my attachment is larger than Hotmail allows. I discovered that Outlook Express can be configured to break the attachment into 500KB sections and it worked. My daughter received the e-mails each with a 500KB attachment, but her Outlook Express is not recombining the sections back into one message so she cannot open the attachment successfully. Do you have any idea how to solve this problem? Bundy, Queensland, Australia.

A: Dear Bundy, I am delighted that this column is reaching my home state of Queensland and that’s a really interesting question. It sounds as if you are expecting Outlook Express to combine the attachments automatically. Which it wont do - you actually have to tell it what to do. Select all the parts of the message in the right order by holding down CTRL and clicking on the Subject Lines. Then select Combine and Decode from the Message menu. The result will be displayed in a new Window. After that, grab a tinnie from the CoolBox and have one on me. Cheers.

If you have any tips that you’d like to share, or any questions about your pc experience, contact me: Dr Byte, at [email protected]


What colour is your taste?

By Ranjith Chandrasiri

There is an important step between knowing how to taste wine and finding the wines that you like. That step is putting taste into words. There are two hurdles here: coming up with the words to describe what you like or don’t like, and then getting the other person to understand what you mean. Naturally, it helps if we all speak the same language.

Unless you want to drink the same wine for the rest of your life, you are going to have to decide what it is that you like or dislike in a wine and communicate that to another person who can steer you in the right direction. Appearance and aroma are not critical in finding a wine you like. If you prefer white, red or pink, it’s because of the way the wine tastes, not because of the colour.

When you first begin to taste wine, you are usually faced with two opposite problems. The wine was so simple that you really couldn’t find anything to say about it or the flavours were so complex that you couldn’t sort them out. Learning to describe the taste of a wine in wine language is the secret.

Wines have flavours, but wines don’t come in a specific flavour - strawberry, chocolate or plain vanilla. While you might enjoy the suggestion of chocolate in a red wine, you wouldn’t want to go to a wine shop and ask for a chocolaty wine. Instead you would refer to “families of flavours” in wine.

Fruity wines - the ones that make you think of fruit when you hold the wine in your mouth.

Earthy wines - These make you think of mushrooms, walks in the forest, dry leaves and so on.

Spicy wines - Cinnamon, cloves black pepper for example.

Herbal wines - Mint, grass, hay, rosemary and so on.

And there are so many other flavours in wine that you could go on and on.

Sweetness

Beginners sometimes describe dry wines as sweet because they confuse fruitiness with sweetness. A wine is fruity when it has distinct aromas and flavour of fruit. You smell the fruitiness with your nose and in your mouth you “smell” it through your retro-nasal passage. Sweetness, on the other hand, is perceived on the surface of your tongue. When in doubt, try holding your nose when you taste the wine. If the wine is sweet, you will be able to taste the sweetness despite the fact that you can’t smell the fruitiness.

Acidity

All wines have acidity for both its flavour and its preservative quality. Acidity is more of a taste factor in white wines than in reds. For white wines acidity is the backbone of the wine’s taste. White wines with good amount of acidity taste crisp, and those lack acidity taste fat and flabby. The sides of the tongue trigger your perception of acidity. You can also sense the consequences of acidity (or lack of it) in the overall style of the wine - whether it’s a tart little number or a soft and generous sort for example. Classify the wine you are tasting as tart, crisp or soft.

Tannin

Tannin is the substance that exists naturally in grape skins. Because red wines are fermented with the grape skins, tannin levels are far higher in red wines than in white wines. Just as acidity is to a white wine, tannin is the backbone that gives the structure to a red wine. Because tannin sometimes taste bitter, you sense tannin near the back of your tongue. Wood tannin contributes a warm sensation on the insides of the cheeks. The cumulative effect of both is a puckering drying sensation. Depending on the amount of tannin, a red wine can be called astringent, firm or soft.

Body

A wine’s body is an impression you get from the whole of the wine. It is the impression of the weight, which is usually attributed to alcohol in a wine. Think about the wine’s fullness and weight as you taste it and classify the wine as light, medium or full-bodied.

Good wine should have texture; it shouldn’t be thin like water. It can be subtle or thick and ropey like oil on canvas. It should also have what is called a long finish, which is the lingering sensation in the mouth. The balance of a wine - critical to its quality - depends on having all these factors present in the right amount.

When the wine is in your mouth, the multiple taste sensations - flavours, sweetness or dryness, acidity, tannin, balance, length, body and texture - occur practically all at once and the experience is so sensational that the best you can do is to try to describe it.

Ranjith Chandrasiri is the resident manager, Royal Cliff Grand, Royal Cliff Beach Resort and the Founder of Royal Cliff Wine Club, Pattaya, Thailand. Email: [email protected]alcliff.com or [email protected] Website: http://www.royal cliff.com/rcwineclub.htm


Ask your local US Consul

Dear Consul,

I went to Immigration last week to get my visa extended, and they said they needed a notarized copy of my passport. So, I go to the Consulate, and - hello! - thirty dollars? For a signature? Are you guys in cahoots with the Thai authorities, or what?

- That’s Good Beer Money

Dear Mr. (just a guess!) Money:

You’d be surprised by just how often I get this question, although there are usually a few more four-letter words in there (apologies, by the way, for taking yours out - though I commend your creativity).

I know there’s no convincing a truly hard-core conspiracist, but I’m hoping you’re not in that category, and I promise you that Immigration’s decision to require notarized documents took us as much by surprise as it did you. Frankly, I’d much rather that we didn’t have the longer lines and increased demand for services - especially considering that we never see a cent of proceeds.

That’s correct: not only does the money not benefit the individual officers (which, let’s face it, would be a little weird), but neither does it come into the Consulate’s coffers in any way. In fact, it doesn’t even directly benefit the State Department.

Here’s how it works: some services - basic ones, like the existence of our facility - are supported by taxpayers. Some - visa services and their related security requirements - are funded entirely by visa application fees. And some, like notarials, are shouldered by the American citizens who use the service themselves, with the money received going into the General Treasury.

Every few years, an independent assessor looks at how much it costs to have government personnel overseas to provide various services (answer: lots) and how much time is spent with each function, and Congress adjusts the fees accordingly. And no, not always upwards. Last year, the notary fee was $55.

Yes, $55 (or $30) is quite a lot compared with what you would pay in your home state (and no, you needn’t tell me exactly how much it would cost back in Akron, and yes, I do know that whatever it is, it’s a really big difference). But truly, that’s not the right comparison to make. Think of it this way: you always have the option to hop on a plane back to Akron and take advantage of the free or $5 service there. Preposterous? Of course! But so is not figuring in those same costs - many times over - in providing that service out here. The only alternative is to have the fee absorbed by all the U.S. taxpayers who don’t need anything notarized in Thailand (or Mozambique, or …) - and that’s hardly fair, is it?

The U.S. government is not a for-profit enterprise, and we at the Consulate do realize $30 is a lot of money for someone on a fixed income or a teacher’s salary. That’s one reason we always advise people struggling with the new Immigration rules to fill out one blanket affidavit rather than our certifying every document, which would be a very expensive proposition (but in many ways less work for us, certifications being less time-consuming than notarials). It’s also why we urge you to go to a Thai attorney for a notarial unless the purpose for which you need the document absolutely requires that it be done in a U.S. facility. And if your Immigration paperwork isn’t accepted on a technicality, we try to work with you to modify a service you’ve already paid for rather than charge you for a new one.

As with visa decisions, in which the Consulate merely executes the law as set by Congress, if you find you absolutely, positively cannot abide what the Consulate is required to do, your best option is to go after the root of the regulation: write your lawmaker; please don’t abuse our cashier.

Jai yen yen,

The Consul

Have a question about visas, passports, travel to the United States, services for American citizens, or related issues? Ask the Consul. Send your e-mail to [email protected] state.gov, with “ask the consul” in the subject line. If your question isn’t selected, you can get an answer by calling the Consulate at 053-252-629, from 8 to 4.