HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Personal Directions: Good training is a necessary ingredient

By Christina Dodd,

Following on from my story last week and to how “a little bit of training can go a long way,” I would like to fill you in on an experience I had just recently that really does highlight this point.

Over the holidays I found a new carwash facility in our area. As you know, there are so many of these places around, but it is really quite difficult to find one that outshines another. They are all relatively cheap, provide reasonably quick service and clean your car - that’s it in a nutshell. All most people want is to have their car washed with the inside vacuumed and of course - someone else to do it! Most people regard this as a fairly routine activity and don’t attach a lot of seriousness to the level of service and performance.

But this place really caught my attention. It wasn’t a flashy franchise with a catchy name and a hundred cars in the queue. It was a small operation with good equipment set on a fairly large area of land off the beaten track. There were a few very ordinary chairs and seats placed around a fridge with the usual dinks for sale and the daily papers scattered here and there. The operation looked well-organized and seemed to be running quite smoothly. So I thought to myself, let’s see how we go with this outfit and how well they work on my car - which by the way I must say has seen a lot of miles and a lot of years!

Usually when I drive into a carwash they take one look at my car and adopt a less than enthusiastic attitude to cleaning it. I have found this in many places because most people love to work on bright and shiny new or newer cars. With second-hand or older cars there is no real attraction and I’m sure a lot of the staff in these shops wonder why owners of older cars take the trouble.

Anyway, I took a seat and let the show begin. The young crew that was assigned to my car took a completely different attitude to it than any other carwash I had been to before. They almost caressed it after the big hosing episode and began to delicately and lovingly go over her inside and out. Nothing was a problem, nothing seemed to be too much trouble. Every little inch and half inch that could be cleaned and polished was given the treatment. The boot interior was left in pristine condition and the contents rearranged much better than I had done. I was amazed to see such attention to detail and such dedication to doing nothing but the best for my car!

During all this activity, which by the way seemed similar to being in the audience at a silent movie, I noticed the faces on each of the staff. They all looked happy and contented; enjoying what they were doing. You could see that each of them held a certain level of pride in completing each of their specific duties and areas of responsibility on the car. No-one joked around and wasted time or effort. The whole focus was on getting the job done and in doing so, giving the car that is being cleaned the respect it deserved - even though it was an old car.

You may think I’m going a bit far with this point, but I think it is very pertinent to the way we all approach the tasks we undertake in life. Giving the task the respect that is due to it - it is fundamental to succeeding in the completion of that task and coming away with a true sense of achievement and pride.

I was so pleased to have come across these young people who were almost whistling whilst they were working. It was obvious that they had been given some very good training and direction in the work they were doing. Each had a role, each had a task to complete. Their tools were prepared and ready. They had all they needed at hand to be efficient. There was a beginning, a middle and an end to the procedure.

The owner of the establishment was there to observe and ensure the final product was to my satisfaction. He was a polished young man in every way and allowed his staff to get on with the job without any interference from him. It was obvious that he was able to do this because he had laid the groundwork with the excellent training he had provided them. The foundations for success had been put in place.

This kind of experience always inspires me and restores my faith in people and their ability to excel. People at all levels can do so well in the fields they choose to work in. No matter how simple or mundane those fields may appear to others, that is not the point. As humans we can excel if we are motivated and given encouragement and the right kind of training. With this set of ingredients we can embrace a task and come out on top. We can enjoy what we do and at the same time, have pride in doing it.

These young kids who were washing my car were putting every ounce of effort in to doing their job. They had been given very basic and very good training that allowed them to work together as a team. They performed like clockwork. Nothing missed a beat and the end result was excellent. My car was gleaming inside and out. So too were the faces on the staff at the end of the job.

A little bit of training goes a long way. But think about what happens when it is more than just a little bit. Think of what can be achieved with dedicated, committed, sound and professional training. People have the most incredible abilities and given the right kind of support and training, they can really surprise you.

For those of you would like a presentation on our training or life-coaching services, or any of our other professional and life skills programs, please contact me at Christina.dodd

Until next time, have a tremendous week!

The Doctor's Consultation: The sins of the fathers!

by Dr. Iain Corness

One problem of being an orphan is that it leaves the person with no idea as to what ailments are going to befall them. Heredity is one of the ‘clues’ to your health in the future, and what you can do to enjoy a long, lively and healthy one.

With the increasing research into genetics, we are able to map out likely futures and can predict such ailments as diabetes, epilepsy and other neurological problems like Huntington’s Chorea and Alzheimer’s Disease, some cancers such as breast, ovarian, lower bowel, prostate, skin and testicular, heart attacks, blood pressure problems, certain blood diseases like Sickle Cell Anaemia and so the list goes on.

However, you do not need to have multi-million baht examinations done on your DNA to see where you are headed, all you need to do is to start asking the older family members about your inheritance. Not the money - your genetic inheritance in the health stakes.

Have you ever wondered why the questionnaire for life insurance asks whether any close member of your family has ever suffered from diabetes, epilepsy and other ailments and then also asks you to write down how old your parents or brothers and sisters were when they died, and what they died from? All that they, the insurance company, is doing is finding out the relative likelihood (or ‘risk’) of your succumbing early to an easily identifiable disease. This does not need a postgraduate Masters degree in rocket science. It needs a cursory application of family history.

If either of your parents had diabetes, your elder brother has diabetes, your younger brother has diabetes and your cousin has diabetes, what are the odds on your getting (or already having) diabetes? Again this is not rocket science. The answer is pretty damn high! And yet, I see families like this where the individual members are totally surprised and amazed when they fall ill, go to hospital, and diabetes is diagnosed.

It does not really take very much time over a family lunch to begin to enquire about one’s forebears. After five minutes it will be obvious if there is some kind of common medical thread running through your family. That thread may not necessarily be life threatening, but could be something like arthritis for example.

Look at it this way - your future is being displayed by your family’s past. This could be considered frightening, when your father, his brother and your grandfather all died very early from heart attacks. Or, this could be considered as life saving, if it pushes you towards looking at you own cardiac health and overcoming an apparently disastrous medical history.

This is an advantage that you get if you are not an orphan. You know what to look for before it becomes a problem. Going back to the family with diabetes, what should the younger members do? Well, if it were me, I would be having my blood sugar checked at least once a year from the age of 20. Any time I had reason to visit the doctor in between, I would also ask to have the level checked. We are talking about a very inexpensive test that could literally save you millions of baht in the future, as well as giving you a better quality of life, and a longer one.

Ask around the dinner table today and plan to check your medical future tomorrow. It’s called a ‘Check-up’!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
After reading your wonderful words of wisdom from afar, and cottoning onto the fact that you are a connosuer (sic) of champagne and chocolates, I am hoping you can also help me from afar. I am dating a wonderful young lady and just want to know what champagne I should buy to woo her, and whether dark chocolate or milk chocolate would be best.
The Gentleman Suitor

Dear Gentleman Suitor,
The first thing you have to do is attend to your spelling, my Petal. If you want to be a “connoisseur” of champagne, then learn to spell it! However, in your side of the world, my favourite champagne Veuve Cliquot (French and vintage, darling, vintage) is not too expensive, though the Grande Dame should be only brought out for very special occasions. Regarding the chocolate, you won’t go wrong with milk chocolate selections, though the white chocolate can be quite special. But it is a presentation box, my Gentleman friend, not a block!
Dear Hillary,
Since I come to Thailand many times a year, I am thinking about buying a bar, rather than spending my money in somebody else’s bar. Is this possible and do you think it is a good idea? I have a Thai girlfriend who could look after it for me while I am away and the idea of sitting at my own bar, drinking my own beer is very attractive. Is it possible?
Bar Fly

Dear Bar Fly,
I think this is an excellent idea for your Thai girlfriend but not for you. Like any business venture, unless you have experience, then starting a new venture, in Thailand in particular, is very hazardous. Your experience seems to be in sitting on the wrong side of the bar, not the business side that has the cash register. There is also a small matter of work permits in this country, and ‘bar owner’ is not one of those skills that the Thai government is looking for in foreign arrivals. You may as well just give all your money to your girlfriend and let her buy you beers while you are over here. The money might last longer. The way to make a small fortune out of owning a bar in Thailand is to start with a large fortune. Forget it, Bar Fly.
Dear Hillary,
During high season my boyfriend tells me that there are many visiting ladies out sunning themselves around the swimming pool of the hotel where he work. Many of the (big) ladies are wearing nothing on their top. Thai woman are very shy, but the visitor do not care about local custom. This make embarrassing for Thai women. What should be done to stop this custom?

Dear Noi,
It is all a question of cost, little Noi. As you say, the foreign tourists are large and to buy the top for a swimsuit is very pricey, as it takes so much material, so they make do with just the bottoms. You have to remember that it is very expensive for them to come out here for their holidays, so they have to save money somewhere. Don’t worry, Noi, they will all be gone soon. I know that topless sunbathing is the custom overseas, so forgive them. I am sure your boyfriend is not complaining.
Dear Hillary,
Most of the letters you get are from men who are whining about what has happened to them with girls from in the bar scene. Has the simple fact escaped them that there is another side to living in Thailand? Surely they must see that there is a big difference between that side and the other side? If they stopped to look past the end of their noses they would see that there are some truly wonderful girls out there. I have been married to my Thai wife for ten years now and we have a partnership and mutual trust. This works very well and I have never felt at any time that I am being ripped off. Adjustments have to be made (by both the people) but that is normal in any marriage. My wife came from a respectable family and had a good job before she settled down to be a wife and mother to our two lovely girls. Why don’t some of these men who write in with complaints spend more time to look for the “good” girls?
Happily Married to a Thai lady

Dear Happily Married to a Thai lady,
I thank you for your letter, as it is easy for the casual reader to think that there is nothing but disaster in any relationship with a Thai lady. You are correct, people with problems do tend to write in to a problems column, rather than those who do not. It is always good to show that there is another side to the coin. Unfortunately, the ‘professional’ ladies are the ones that the newcomers meet, who are then swept off their feet in the rush to the gold shop, the motorcycle dealers and the real estate agents. These men would not go looking for their life’s partner in a bar in their own country, so why do they do so here? Laziness and easy availability is the answer. Congratulations again on writing in and 10 years of marital (not ‘martial’) bliss.

Camera Class: Sharpen your focussing skills - even with AutoFocus

by Harry Flashman

Though I have been sorely tempted from time to time, I do not use an AutoFocus (AF) camera. There are a couple of reasons for this, more than just the expense of totally changing my Nikon system, but one of them is the fact that even the most modern AF systems are slower focussing than me and my manual focus ring, and the second is that by the very act of focussing it reminds me just who or what is the ‘hero’ - the subject that has to be pin sharp.

However, since most new cameras are AF, the following tips will try and ensure that you do get the sharp prints that you think you’re going to get from the expensive AF feature.

There are unfortunately many situations where the magic AF eye just cannot work properly. If there is no contrast in the scene, then the AF will not work. If you are trying to focus in a “low light” situation then the AF will “hunt” constantly looking for a bright area. When trying to shoot through glass or wire mesh the AF can become totally confused. No, while AF is now almost 100 percent universal, it still is not 100 percent foolproof.

One of the reasons for this is quite simple. The camera’s magic eye doesn’t know exactly what subject(s) you want to be in focus and picked the wrong one! The focussing area for the AF system is a small circle or square in the middle of the viewfinder, so if you are taking a picture of two people two metres away, the camera may just focus on the trees in the far distance that it can see between your two subjects. Those trees are two km away, so you get back a print with the background sharp and the two people in the foreground as soft fuzzy blobs.

What you have to do is use the “hold-focus” (sometimes called “focus lock”) facility in your camera. To use this facility, compose the people the way you want them, but then turn the camera so that one person is now directly in the middle of the viewfinder. Gently push the shutter release half way down and the AF will “fix” on the subject. Generally you will get a “beep” or a green light in the viewfinder to let you know that the camera has fixed its focus. It will now hold that focus until you either fully depress the shutter release, or you take your finger off the button. So keeping your finger on the button, recompose the picture in the viewfinder and shoot. The people are now in focus, and the background soft and fuzzy, instead of the other way round.

So what should you do in the other situations when the AF is in trouble? Simple answer is to turn it off, and focus manually! Sometimes, in the poor light it is possible to shine a torch on the subject, get the AF fixed on the subject and then turn off your torch and go from there. But this is only when you cannot turn the AF off!

Another focussing problem is when photographing a moving subject. When say, for example, you are attempting to shoot a subject coming rapidly towards you, the AF is unable to “keep up” with the constantly moving target. The answer here is to manually focus at the point where you want to get the photograph and then wait for the subject to reach that point. As it gets level with the predetermined point, trip the shutter and you have it. A sharply focussed action photograph.

Another super tip from the photographic studios of the glamour photographers - when making a portrait shot, focus on the eyes, nowhere else. I know it is easier to focus on the collar for example, but you run the risk of the shot going “soft” around the eyes. Very, very carefully focus on the eyelid margins and you will have a super shot, no matter how shallow your depth of field may be.