Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

The Doctor's Consultation:Cardiac unit diet - fast weight loss?

by Dr. Iain Corness

The other day I noticed a friend of mine had dropped some weight. “Fifteen kilos in two months,” was his proud reply. He had done this by following a diet - and one that had obviously worked! This is put forward as a seven-day diet, and although I am not always in favour of ‘crash’ diets, this one does merit some study. It is reputedly from Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital and is used in their cardiac care unit for overweight patients to lose weight prior to surgery.

It states the first no-nos as being bread, alcohol, soft drinks, fried food or oil. Agree totally.

After that there is a concoction called Fat-Burning Soup (FBS) which you make up and keep in the fridge. You gobble FBS any time you feel hungry and have as much as you want. You are also advised to drink plenty of water - 6-8 glasses a day along with tea, coffee, skim milk, unsweetened juice or cranberry juice.

The physiology of hunger works that when the stomach is empty, messages are sent to the brain to send down food. Fill the belly with non-fattening food and the hunger pangs will be less, but the weight does not go on.

Here is the recipe for the Fat-Burning Soup:
4 cloves garlic
2 large cans crushed tomatoes (810gms)
2 large cans beef consomm้
1 packet vegetable packet soup
1 bunch spring onions
1 bunch celery
2 cans French beans (or fresh)
2 green capsicum
1 kg carrots
10 cups water

Chop all veggies into small pieces. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes stirring well and then simmer until veggies are tender. Add water if necessary to make a thinner soup.

Now the other downside to dieting is food boredom. A week of FBS, water and cranberry juice will sap the resolve of most overweight people, so what this diet does is allow you to add different items on a daily basis. Here are the suggestions.

Day 1, any fruit except bananas. Eat only soup and fruit today.

Day 2, all vegetables. Eat as much as you like of fresh, raw or canned vegetables. Try to eat green leafy vegetables. Stay away from dry beans, peas, and corn. Eat vegetables along with soup. At dinner reward yourself with a jacket potato and butter.

Day 3, eat all the soup, fruit and veggies you want today. Don’t have the jacket potato today. If you have not cheated you should have lost approx 3 kg.

Day 4, bananas and skim milk. Eat at least 3 large bananas and drink as much milk as you can today. Eat as much soup as you want. Bananas are high in calories and carbohydrates, as is the milk but you will need the potassium and carbohydrates today.

Day 5, beef and tomatoes. You may have 600 gm of beef or chicken (no skin) and as many as 6 tomatoes. Eat soup at least once.

Day 6, beef and vegetables. Eat to your hearts content of beef and veggies. You can even have 2-3 steaks (grilled) if you like with leafy green vegetables. No baked potato. Be sure to eat soup at least once.

Day 7, brown rice, vegetables, fruit juice. Be sure to eat well and eat as much soup as you can.

By the end of day 7, if you have not cheated, you should have lost 7 kg. The theory is good, but I caution against losing too much, too soon.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
After many years in Europe, we have come to Thailand to retire. My idea of retiring is to have the time to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. No longer do I have to catch the 0635 train. I do not have to wait till 1630 hours before leaving the office. That was the plan. I now find I have an even bigger problem. My wife has decided that she is the saviour of the animals on the streets, and our home is now a sort of zoo. I could put up with this if it didn’t mean that we have to be awake by 0635 every morning to feed the puppies, or make sure we are home by 1630 to make sure the rabbit is in its hutch. The whole idea of a relaxed time in retirement has now gone. I have tried talking to her about this, but it falls on deaf ears, or else she has to run off because the pigeons are laying. What do I do?

Patrick
Dear Pat (the dog?),
You certainly do have a problem, Petal. And chocolates and champagne aren’t going to fix these very quickly. I presume you have been married a long time, so this behaviour is something new. Did your wife leave children behind in your own country and this is perhaps the ‘empty nest’ syndrome? Whatever the reason, you are going to have to get a time that you can have a sensible heart-to-heart with her (not with Hillary). Perhaps in between the pigeons and the rabbits could be a good time. You are going to have to state your wishes and needs very strongly. This will not be fixed overnight. Perhaps if the animals escaped it might make it easier. They were on the streets before, so it should be nothing new. More suitable pets might also be an idea. Tortoises only need food once a week I believe. If this doesn’t work and she insists on looking after her pets, you might have to find a couple of your own. Buffaloes might be a good start, some of them have very interesting families! Best of luck.

Dear Hillary,
Normally it seems to be that wives complain about their husbands drinking, but this time it is the other way round. My wife has started drinking every day at home, not just when we go out and she is becoming a problem with her moods and her excuses why she drinks, usually blaming me or the kids. I have tried talking to her about this, but she’ll have none of it. I don’t know what to do any more. Do you?

Al
Dear Al,
You, or rather your wife, has a large problem. Try contacting Alcoholics Anonymous in your area and be guided by them. This is such a serious problem that Hillary will refrain from her usual flippant self. Best of luck, Al.

Dear Hillary ,
Once a week I go out with a group of Thai people from work and we go to a Thai restaurant for a meal. There is about seven or eight and they order quite a few dishes and when the dishes go down on the table, they all just tuck in with their eating spoons. In my world this is not very hygienic, but I don’t know what to do to let them know I am worried about getting diseases. Don’t they use serving spoons?

Amanda
Dear Amanda,
No, Petal, they do not use serving spoons! What you are trying to do is to change Thai ways in one evening a week at a local restaurant. I’m sorry, but you won’t change them. Neither the restaurant, nor your work-mates. Actually there is not much chance of disease, but if you are really worried, you can always get in first and ladle out what you want, before the others have time to dip their spoons into it. They may think this is strange behaviour, but since you are a farang they will ignore it.

Dear Hillary,
I am an 18-year-old girl from America living here in Thailand and often use motorcycle taxis to go about. As I am a visitor, I do not want to upset the local people and want to know if I should ride sideways like the Thai girls, or leg over like we do in the US? My mother is old fashioned and says I shouldn’t be on motorcycles at all and that they are too dangerous. What do you think?

Motorbike Minnie
Dear Minnie,
With all due respects to Mum, who is trying to make sure her daughter comes to no harm, the most important factor is that the rider knows what he is doing - not how the pillion passenger sits. Be prepared to tell the rider to slow down “Cha-Cha” and if he does not then get the rider to stop and get off. Thai women will ride sidesaddle if they have tight or short skirts, it is not really anything to do with etiquette or custom. Have a look at the girls in jeans - they will sit astride too.


Camera Class:More SFX (Special Effects)

by Harry Flashman

A few weeks ago in this column I showed you how to make a very cheap and effective soft focus, centre spot filter for the princely sum of 1 baht. This week I thought we should experiment even more and see what special effects we can come up with. Again, I am not in favour of going out and purchasing expensive filter kits. After all, you may hate the end result, and what do you do with the expensive accessories then? By the way, the following experiments can be done with any camera, even the ‘film in a box’ styles.

The first one is the Super Sunset Filter. This one will give you that wonderfully warm “tropical sunset” which will make people envious that they aren’t over here to enjoy such spectacular endings to the day. To produce the warm glow, just take off your sunglasses and place one side over the lens. It’s that simple! Just look at the difference yourself, with and without the sunnies. The camera will see it the same way.

The next one is the super-cheap polarizer. This time you need a pair of polaroid type sunglasses. Holding the sunglasses in front of you, slowly rotate the glasses while looking at reflections in the water for example. When the reflections disappear, note the degree of rotation and then hold the polaroid glasses over the lens at the same angle. Once again, you will get a very similar result to the way your eye sees the scene.

Soft romantic effects can be produced in many ways, and I don’t mean chocolates and flowers! Here’s a few tried and true methods, and super inexpensive as well. The first is to gently breathe on the end of the lens just before you take the shot. Your warm breath will impart a “mist” to produce a wonderfully misty portrait, or that early morning mist look for landscapes. Remember that the “misting” only lasts a few seconds, so make sure you have the camera pre-focussed and ready to shoot. If you have control over the aperture, try around f4 as well.

Here’s the next. Use a piece of stocking (pantyhose) material. Stretch it over the lens and tie it on with a rubber band. Cut a small hole in the middle and go ahead and shoot romantic portraits.

Here’s another way. Take an old Skylight 1A filter (the UV filter you should have on the end of your lens - if you haven’t got one, then get one!) and smear the outside of it with Vaseline (petroleum jelly). Not a thick coating, but just a thin smear around the outer area of the filter first, leaving the centre clear. Take a photograph of your favourite lady. This is another centre-spot shot with soft focus around the edges.

Now let’s continue with our tub of Vaseline. With a little jelly on the tip of one finger, smear right across the filter with parallel strokes and take another shot. Next step is to smear the Vaseline in concentric circles and take another picture. These shots will also look better if you are “backlighting” your subject (the sun is behind them) and a little “flare” into the lens is good. The end result will be like something you have seen in way-out fashion magazines.

There are also other ways of bending, refracting or just generally fooling the camera’s lens system. This you do by holding transparent materials in front of the lens when taking your photographs. I suggest you get small pieces of glass or perspex (around 10 cm by 10 cm) and use these as the final filter. You can even use semi-transparent material like shower screen glass. The concept is just to produce a “different” effect, one that you cannot see with your own eyes, but the camera may be able to pick up. It is very difficult to predict the outcomes in these situations, but you can be pleasantly amazed at some of the results. The main idea is to give it a try!


Social Commentary by Khai Khem: Let’s get real about the so-called double pricing system

I don’t condone cheats and con artists who swindle innocent victims out of their hard-earned cash. And maybe in a perfect world, everyone would truly be created equal and prices for goods and services would be uniform throughout the globe. Meanwhile, until the roadmap to Utopia has been published, most of us will have to make do with what we have. Yes, there are some people who get bargains while others pay more; and yes, the two-tiered pricing system in Thailand is a fact in some cases.

This controversy has been raging for more years than I can count. In fact, the whole topic of discussion has become what I would call a sociological ‘tick’. Lots of countries have social ‘ticks’. France is frantic about her national language being polluted with English phrases. People in America have been known to walk up to total strangers in the street and slap cigarettes out of the mouths of smokers while lecturing them on the dangers lung cancer.

The Dutch are “clean freaks” and the English will bang on your door at 4:00 in the morning to complain about your barking dog. Aussies love to “take the Mickey” out of the Yanks and tease them into a snit just for laughs. Argentineans consume more sugar per person per year than any other nation and are usually toothless by the time they are in their 40’s. Malaysia’s Bumiputra policy - the equivalent of the USA’s affirmative action - irks non-Malays who feel they are victims of this protective and discriminatory government policy and are at a disadvantage in business dealings.

As the many letters to the editor in this publication tell us, Thailand is not the only nation which offers different prices for different target groups. To cut to the chase - pricing is a business decision and not based on malicious racism. Like death and taxes, price fluctuation is inescapable. Unlike death, (and maybe taxes) bargaining can often take the pain out of shopping.

Many foreigners who come here are extremely annoyed when they are asked to pay a higher price for certain things than Thai citizens. The discrepancy of entrance fees into public parks and tourist attractions are a matter of policy, usually clearly posted and rarely negotiable. But of course it doesn’t stop there.

Items in small shops often fluctuate in price, depending on who is buying. If ‘Madame’ shops in local outdoor markets it is quite possible that she may pay more for the same item than her next door neighbor who is Thai and knows the ropes. If ‘Madame’ is lucky enough to have a maid or a Thai friend who knows how to bargain and will do the shopping for her, the total bill for the same purchases might be less. If a Western man goes shopping with his Thai girlfriend or wife, and lets her do the talking, she may get a better price than he would on his own.

However, these little tips are rather narrow, and do not address the overall picture. In real life, everywhere in the world, it really comes down to how we shop and how much effort we are willing to put into by getting the most for our money. In some instances, if we bargain hard enough we can get a better deal. Oftentimes, we simply have to bite the bullet and pay the price or go without. Go without? You bet.

That money is in YOUR pocket. When you part with it, you have made a personal choice. If you make the choice to pay the price and find out later someone else got it cheaper, stop whining and learn the lesson. If you are vexed that the entrance fee to an attraction is two-tiered, walk away and find something else to do. If you cannot make a satisfactory bargain during a potential purchase, try another shop, or two, or three.

Try to keep a healthy perspective on this subject. Thai shopkeepers are too busy trying to make a living to make you their sole, personal victim. “Whatever the market will bear” is an age-old business practice and was not specifically conceived to make Western visitors to Thailand miserable.

Any foreigners who think that being Thai in Thailand automatically gives them access to the “good life” through slightly cheaper prices should take a good look around at our highly visible poverty. A quick reality check will dispel that fantasy.

For the record, I have true sympathy for the visitor who has been outrageously overcharged and truly ripped off. This is inexcusable and those who have been victimized by unscrupulous locals should file formal complaints so the perpetrators can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The government and many legitimate organizations are taking tough stances on this issue and are increasingly more vigilant in weeding out these bad apples. Laws, strategies and interactive cooperation from the government and private business sectors are serious about tackling this problem.

Most Thais warmly greet visitors to their kingdom and sincerely want their stay here to be a safe and pleasurable experience. We welcome our international guests with open arms and hope they will return. Sometimes it’s the small things that get on people’s nerves. Let’s try to meet each other half way and be a little more tolerant of some of our inherent differences.


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

It’s been all of three or four weeks since I last discussed SPAM and some of the less savory E-mail and Internet scams that you will come across. On July 22, the FBI and some US consumer organizations issued a warning about a growing fraud scheme involving emails that lure people to fake websites to collect sensitive personal or financial data.

The scam involves email that links users to sites that are designed to look like legitimate sites and deceive consumers into revealing credit card or bank account numbers or other sensitive data. The scam, which has developed in the past few months, has tricked customers of big retailers such as Best Buy, the internet payment site Paypal and EarthLink, a major Internet service provider. Investigators term the fake websites “phisher” sites, saying they are simply a vehicle to steal information and probably money.

“This is the hottest new scam on the Internet,” said Keith Lourdeau of the FBI’s cybercrime division, speaking at a news conference recently.

The FBI is investigating at least 600 complaints involving the “phisher” scam. An FBI official added that the scam could be used for credit card fraud, bank fraud or identity theft, possibly even to create false identities for terrorist activity.

He said that in one case, the scam collected credit card numbers that were “sent abroad to criminals who used the stolen credit cards throughout Europe”.

The email purports to be from the legitimate company, officials said, and indicates that the firm has lost some data and needs to verify the recipient’s identity.

At least one scheme was hatched by a 17-year-old in the US, who used stolen credit card information for a shopping spree of several thousand dollars, said a member of the Federal Trade Commission.

Also in the news was EarthLink, who organised the news conference after learning that spammers were luring its customers to a fake EarthLink website to collect personal data.

On other matters related, if you want to receive e-mail spam and stay in touch with family, business and friends, which e-mail client do you use?

Most people go with whichever one came preloaded on their PC when they bought it or the one recommended by their ISP. In a lot of cases, that means using Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express.

But you don’t have to be like most people. There are a number of alternative e-mail clients out there that offer all the features you need plus some hot extras that might make you want to switch. Another factor that recommends these mailers is price: Several are free, and most are inexpensive.

Switching e-mail clients should not be taken lightly. Just think of all the time you spend each day writing, reading, and sorting e-mails - you don’t want to do that in a program you don’t like! So make sure to take a careful look at an application before you buy it or install a free version, so you’re sure to pick one that fits your working style. Here are three I can recommend.

IncrediMail Xe, my personal favorite of the alternative e-mailers, lets you include animated icons and stylish text in your messages. It also offers 3D effects to further spice up your messages. (Free/Windows) http://www.incredimail.com/english/splash.html - This gets 4 Stars.

The Bat offers all the features of other well known e-mail clients plus extras like an integrated image viewer and immunity to most known viruses. It doesn’t have the flashy graphics that IncrediMail offers, but it’s a solid client if you want to get down to business. (Shareware/Windows) http://www.ritlabs.com/ - This one only gets 3.5 stars for not being free.

Eudora for Mac and PC combines ease of use, a full feature set, and excellent e-mail filtering. It also offers an interesting feature called MoodWatch that notifies you of bad language in incoming and outgoing mail. (Free/Windows/Mac) http://www.eudora.com/ - There is a free and a paid version, so check what features each provide. Eudora gets 3 Stars.

These are some of my favorite alternative e-mailers, but I’m always open to trying something new. If you know of other good ones, let me know by contacting Dr Byte at Chiang Mai Mail.