HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Personal Directions:  Well, what are you waiting for?

By Christina Dodd,

I was finishing up a one-day program on Assertiveness for Managers last week and we had come to the part where each individual in the group completes a Personal Action Plan proposing what sort of follow-up action they will take on a particular area that needs attention. As I glanced around the room there were heads buried deep in thought, some were directing their gaze into space, others were frantically writing as if their lives depended on it. Having completed the task, it was time to invite members of the group to share their thoughts and plans.

One young man jumped out of his seat and announced that from this day on he needed to really examine his behavior and firstly, as a manager, boost his confidence which he had identified as being the main reason for his poor performance. The penny had dropped that he could achieve so much more if only he had more confidence to act and act now! He asked me if there were any suitable books he could start to read on this subject and I said to him that I had actually noticed one in the bookstore downstairs by a famous motivational speaker Anthony Robbins. The book was called Awaken the Giant Within. Well, at that moment he took out his wallet, rustling through it counting up the cash he had available. Then he asked to be excused so he could go and buy the book. And off he went!

I’m not going to elaborate on Anthony Robbins here, but on the behavior of this young man in the program who at last could summon up the courage to take action to solve his problem. It is one thing to identify and to recognize that you have a problem and it is another to start to do something about it. So many of us are walking around the streets of our lives knowing full-well the things we must change in order to improve – but we don’t do anything to embark on that project.

This guy felt the only way he could break out and begin the process of change was TO JUST DO IT!

And that is exactly what he did. He took the first step and we all know that there are many steps that must follow driven by oneself and concentrated application. But to take the first step for many of us is the most extraordinary feeling to experience. It is a breakthrough. It is different to our normal behavior. It is like we finally found the gold at the end of the rainbow. It is exhilarating – that first step!

One other girl also attending the same program became inspired by her colleague’s actions and courage. She stood up and made a pledge – her words – to seriously look at the way she handles her time both at work and at home. In writing her Personal Action Plan she said she finally realized how much valuable time she wastes every day. She has always been this way and has always known that she should do something about it. But it wasn’t until she actually sat and wrote down the things she wants to change, that she decided to really do it. And the actions of her colleague prompted her to speak up and share her thoughts and plans.

Just do it and do it now!

Get the ball rolling. Get that motor running. Do whatever it is that you have to do to make the start. If there is no beginning to anything there can never be a middle or an end. Makes sense to me. And how will you ever achieve anything if you never begin to achieve it?

This goes for all of you out there. It goes for me, it goes for every one. When something in ourselves needs changing – and we know it and believe it to be so – it obviously becomes important to us. If it is important to us, then why don’t we act on it? You have the answers and I have the answers to that question but taking that first step to act is not about knowing the answers. You just have to do it.

Most of the time it is necessary to think things through before acting. It is the way most of us behave. It also depends on the situation and it also depends on the person. There are a lot of factors involved here and when it comes to taking action. But is it possible that sometimes we simply think too much and in the process “lose the moment”? If the moment is there right in front of you then why not just go for it! Is this what you are like or are you still thinking about when you are going to do something ten years down the track!

The two young people in the group told me later that they felt very “excited” about what they had said to the class and the fact that they had actually done it. Never before had they acted so boldly and although it was out of character – it was the best thing that happened to them. I told them it was one of the best things that had happened to me too. Watching them assert themselves and step into “new territory” was very rewarding and I will give them every encouragement I possibly can.

Is there something that you know you need to do but haven’t done anything about it yet? I have plenty of them and I’m sure you do too. You know they are important – right? Well, why don’t you and I take the plunge and write all those things down on separate pieces of paper then place them in a bowl. No we are not going to eat them – we are going to draw one slip of paper out as if it is a lucky dip! Then just as the young man in my class jumped up out of his seat, let’s jump out of ours too and announce that we are going to ACT RIGHT NOW on the task we have won. Are you with me on this? If you are then let’s go!

What are we – what are YOU waiting for?

Good luck with it and have a fantastic week!

If you would like to write to me or contact me further about any of our personal or business skills programs, then please email me at [email protected] sia trai

I’d be very happy to hear from you.

The Doctor's Consultation:  Tree Hugging

by Dr. Iain Corness

I am not a tree hugger. I am sure trees, like us, have their bad days too, but they have to get their hugs somewhere else. I was once knew a tree hugger who stopped the man with a bulldozer tearing down a tree at the rear of her house. 12 months later the tree fell over on top of it, demolishing the kitchen and half the dining area. Trees have obviously no sense of moral gratitude. I am not a tree hugger.

What I am, is a conventionally trained British/Australian style medical practitioner who has spent a lifetime practising EBM, otherwise known as Evidence Based Medicine. I am proud of my training. Six years at an Australian university that had a good name, and still does, despite undergraduates like me attempting to besmirch it during the aforementioned six years. I am also proud of my final exams taken in the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons in London. I have the honour to have my name listed in the ‘great book’ with luminaries such as Hunter, Jenner and Lister. I am also indebted to my tutors during the 12 months of ‘pre-registration’, where one applies one’s knowledge under the supervision of accredited specialists. An arduous road, but one that is a safeguard for you, the general public.

Another safeguard is called ‘peer review’ which medical doctors have to undergo. The ‘powers that be’ ensuring that we keep up to date. Those ‘powers that be’ also ensure that we prescribe drugs that are efficacious, that have been tested, and the evidence points to this. It is not anecdotal evidence, but true scientific evidence shown by research in many countries, with hundreds of thousands of patients. It is following that type of evidence, that I can recommend with all good faith, that 100 mgm of aspirin a day is good medicine. I also know that if I prescribe a ‘statin’ drug it will lower your cholesterol levels. They have been tested.

I am also the first to admit that we can also get it wrong. The Thalidomide story still has living examples of this. However, the medical world-wide network is cohesive enough to ensure that this drug was withdrawn. It is the checks and balances system that has kept western medicine afloat. This is not to be equated with the cheques and balances system that keeps some other systems afloat!

I am often asked my opinion on “alternative” medicine, and all its diverse areas of ‘specialization’. As a non-tree hugger I try to avoid direct confrontation over this. If devotees have found that they can diagnose tumours by looking at patient’s auras through their third eye in the middle of their foreheads, then I am genuinely pleased, in fact delighted, provided that they have subjected the method to scientific scrutiny. Remember the acronym EBM.

If various groups can cure cancer, epilepsy, halitosis or lock-jaw by inserting dandelions into any fundamental orifice, then again I am delighted. This is a medical break-through, but as such, must be subjected to medical scrutiny. If the method stands true scientific examination (not to be confused with anecdotal ‘evidence’) then it will be adopted by everyone, complete with thanks to those clever people who picked the dandelions in the first place. After all, penicillin was tripped over, not designed. But it has had a very rigorous scientific scrutiny. Remember the acronym EBM.

When the ‘alternative’ group spends more time proving their methods, instead of complaining about non-acceptance, EBM practitioners will give them more credence.

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
Given that a lawyer makes his (or her) living from the misery and suffering of others, and a prostitute makes her (or his) living from the pleasure and enjoyment of others; who do you think has the more honorable profession?

Dear Gwyn,
A very difficult one to answer. Why is it, for example, that a prostitute is charged with ‘soliciting’ when plying his or her profession? If a lawyer knowingly defends a guilty party are they then prostituting themselves? If prostitution is the ‘oldest profession’, how come it still gets such a bad rap? Surely after all this time, they would have managed to make it more honorable? ‘First in - best dressed’ and all that sort of thing. A solicitor deals in advice, while a prostitute solicits in vice. Really! One has a taxable income, while the other has an income without taxes. It’s all too difficult for Hillary, Gwyn my Petal. I’m just glad I’ve never been either!
G’day Hillary,
Wee Nit (the adorable) has set her heart on a new umbrella and so a journey to the North is imminent. “Go look ill-tripe,” says Nit, endearingly, “Ill-tripe neck too much.” No problem for me so long as she pedals the samlor. I wonder if I will find an Australian language newspaper, complete with an Aunty Sheila. Joop Joop.

Dear Mistersingha,
I was tempted to drop your note in the round file that I keep beside my desk, which the maid clears each evening. It is full of chocolate wrappings from people who do honour their commitments, and the odd empty bottle of champers (consumed after-hours of course). However, I felt that I should perhaps point you in the correct direction, Petal. The long necked Karen hill tribe women are nowhere near San Kamphaeng, where the brolly dollies ply their craft. Wee Nit will have some pedaling with her samlor. Put a few days aside. The Australian Auntie Sheila that you are thinking of was actually called Auntie Jack, and his real name was Graeme Bond. Wrong again! Once more I think you have been consuming too much of the eponymous beer, which is more than can be said for Ms. Hillary’s lack of libations. Especially if I were waiting for you to cough up.
Dear Hillary,
This may not come as a surprise, as I keep hearing “my” tale of woe in many places. Like so many “senior citizens” from America I have settled down in Thailand with a Thai lady many years my junior. Our association has been mutually beneficial, with me enjoying her company and the attentiveness for which Thai women are so famous, while I have helped her family out, including educating her three children from a previous marriage. We have been together two years now, but the requests for assistance have been getting more and more every month, and reputedly more and more urgent. It appears that every cousin, sister, brother are putting demands on my lady, and she just hands over what ever they ask for. I give her a monthly allowance, but that is gone in a few days as she gives it away to the “needy” relatives. If I had a huge bank account I would not mind so much, but I am living (and supporting people) on a US military pension, which although adequate for the lifestyle I lead in Thailand, does not stretch forever! I do know that the Thai people value the family ties much more than we do, but surely there has to be a line drawn somewhere, Hillary. What do you say? Should I put my foot down and say no more? You will understand my position here.

Dear George,
Hello Petal, that’s not THE George Dubbya, is it? Of course not, Dubbya’s pension would be able to keep the entire region of Isaan in schoolbooks; however, I do understand your predicament and I applaud your taking the education of your lady’s children as being your responsibility. You are also correct when you say that Thai families do look after the members in it, but the main direction is upwards, towards the parents. Most Thais will send money “home” every month to help support those left “at home”. Now George, in all associations there has to be a degree of give and take - and that’s not you give and they take. Having been with your lady for two years you should be able to sit down and discuss the problem with her. Explain that things are different in America, and she has to see your side too, after all you have been seeing life from her side of the fence all this time. Only by talking will you get over this hurdle, and it can be a high jump for someone who is obviously thought of as a family “cash cow” or “ATM”, my Petal. My suggestion would be to arrange regular payment each month to the parents and everything else be subject to discussion between the pair of you before any money leaves your account. When it become a little more difficult to milk the cow, the buffalo will come to look after itself!

Camera Class:  Make your visitors go Wow!

by Harry Flashman

This week I will go through a trick I learned many years ago, but is one that many people have never seen, and the majority will have no idea how it is done. The end result can be quite staggering, and what’s more is almost unpredictable - other than the fact that people will look at your photos and go “Wow!”

This week’s column refers very much to wall “art”. When you hang something on the wall, you want an image with ‘oomph’ that has an immediate effect on people. This trick will give you that image with oomph. The end result will be such that people will say for years “How in heck did you take that? Was it a special kind of filter?”

Well, the good news is that you do not need to know anything about filters, let alone use one. The next piece of good news is that you also do not need to know anything about f stops, shutter speeds, zoom lenses, reciprocity failure or the like. Any camera will do - even a cheap point and shooter!

The first step is to pop down to the photoshop and buy some slide film. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a projector, never used slide film before or any other of the excuses. If you normally use 100 ASA print film then get some 100 ASA slide film. Do not get the Kodachrome that you have to send away for processing, just get ordinary slide film that can be processed here.

OK, load the camera with the slide film (it’s just the same to load as print film - for most cameras, put in the cassette, pull the tail across and shut the back of the camera!)

The final result looks best with landscapes - include some sky, or seascapes where you include a yacht or similar close up, or a river scene, and finish the roll of film.

Now take the film back to the shop for processing and here is an important part. You ask for E6 slide processing, but do not mount the slides! Leave the slides either as a roll or cut into strips of 6 and put in sleeves like your usual print film negatives. Impress this on the girl behind the counter. You do not want them mounted. Repeat the instructions!

When you get the slide films back, just hold them up to the light and select any one shot that you like the look of. You can choose the slide in the shop even. You don’t have to be super-selective.

Now talk to the girl behind the counter saying, “I want you to print number X as if this is a negative. I know it is a slide, but I want you to print a picture, using this slide as the negative.” It will probably take quite some repeating before the technician will reluctantly take the job on, with much warnings about it will not look right, etc. Ignore all warnings, just have faith. While you are at it, tell them that you do not want the usual small size, but get an enlargement done straight off. 10" x 8" is sufficient and costs around 80 baht. The photoshops generally call this size 8R. Repeat your instructions, tell them you know the colour will be wrong and leave them to it.

You see, what happens with colour prints is that the processing machine recognizes certain colours in the negative and converts that to green for grass, blue for skies, etc., in a photochemical way. By giving the auto-processor grass that is already green and skies already blue totally confuses its auto brain (and the girl in the shop usually) and it will produce a print with the wildest psychedelic colours you will ever see. Expect orange trees and yellow skies - you can get anything! It is almost impossible to predict, but the end result will certainly have that oomph I promised you. Try it this weekend. You will not be disappointed.

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

By Dr. Byte, Citec Asia

This week, I want to discuss an issue that won’t go away. Sitting over your morning cup of tea or coffee and reading your favorite newspapers and magazine, its simpler to believe that virus attacks, malware, malicious web sites and hackers are all someone else’s problem. That is, until you connect to the internet and cannot connect to your e-mail provider or an important web site. Or you connect, but you might as well prepare a lunch picnic basket and go to the swimming pool while you wait for your half dozen genuine e-mails and 200 spam e-mails to download.

I have to admit frustration and a genuine lack of sympathy nowadays, when clients contact me to complain about their internet connection problems or tell me they have a virus. 99% of these are directly related to how they manage their computers and their own rules (if any) for looking at internet content. For example, and I won’t name the organisation, the CEO of an international organisation representing the interests of his country and people, enjoys looking at web sites where you can see the human form in all its natural glory. Many of these web sites hide malicious code which is intended to take over your computer and does. The callout to fix this computer yet again, while nice repeat business, belies the fact that this computer has been generating unknown thousands and thousands of e-mails, providing a portal for hackers to leap frog and attack somewhere else, and unfortunately, could also be providing personal information to whoever is lurking at the other end of the spyware chain (you could almost say spies spying on the spies?). It’s almost funny except when you consider that this is just one computer out of thousands in the immediate region that is clogging up the internet with illegitimate activities.

A couple of weeks ago, at 9.30 a.m., Khun Nivat arrived at his office to find staff members at his desk asking about strange email attachments. “They were asking, ‘What’s that? Can I open it?’,” he told me later.

Khun Nivat is the IT technician for a company that employs about 12 people and is the key contact for outsourced IT. It took a few minutes before he realised that several machines were already infected. The emails quickly began to pile up in staff inboxes.

Now, of course, almost every internet user has heard about Mydoom. The mass-mailing worm swamped the net with record-breaking speed and brought the website of software maker SCO Group to its knees. “When we realised it was internal on the network, I contacted the provider and asked them to take the email service offline,” Khun Nivat says.

The company uses an anti-virus product and updates it regularly but, as is the case with newly discovered viruses, it had to wait for the vendor to analyse the threat and send an update. “The virus definitions were available by about 11.30 a.m.,” Nivat explained, although the email service was offline for about five hours as they searched for the infected machines and began cleaning up the mess.

Sluggish networks, odd activity, strange traffic - in the early moments of an online threat, we can try to crack the clues. By the time some symptoms show, however, it may already be too late.

At its peak (and it’s less than a year ago) Mydoom was present in one out of every 12 emails passing through the internet. At the time, it became the world’s fastest-spreading mass-mailing worm and analysts say it infected more than 100 million computers in more than 200 countries.

The impact of Mydoom infected machines was to involve each computer as part of a distributed denial-of-service attack against SCO’s main site, bombarding the server with constant requests. Meanwhile, a less rampant variant took a few stabs at Microsoft’s home page.

For some organisations, the first strong indication of trouble comes from the help-desk. “The end user may not know that they have a problem,” said a consultant with IBM’s security group. “IT people get calls from staff complaining of slow bandwidth. They also get calls from customers complaining that they can’t log in to send an order or move money around,” he says. That’s when IT managers start looking at network traffic for clues. “When you see a pile of emails that look similar, as opposed to normal traffic, you start to get a little suspicious.”

Few organisations have any expert level of monitoring but when a problem such as Mydoom is detected, the steps for defence are usually the same. “It depends on the attack but you can either batten down the hatches locally or report the issue to your upstream internet connectivity provider. Unfortunately, it can take hours to have upstream providers changing firewall rules but local measures can start within a matter of minutes.”

For local measures, organisations ideally need tools to identify malicious software and a written procedure to avoid panic and knee-jerk reactions. Although, admittedly, the response could be to pull the cable out of the machine, the problem is that many customers get annoyed when they cannot get access and (the worm or virus) is still inside your system.

There are better ways to consider. If you can identify the virus on a particular attachment, you can block it yourself while waiting for the anti-virus provider to update signatures. You can just block all attachments if you don’t want to be overly clever.

However, Bandwidth problems remain a nasty side effect. One of the problems with the latest threats is that even if your protection is perfect, your bandwidth is still being used up and many people don’t realise this is going on.

Here in Thailand, a lot of SMEs have very small pipes (i.e.: they connect using dialup modem and the expected 40-48K connect speed, unreliable at the best of times, gets easily swamped when Thailand’s international connection tries to also cope with all the increased traffic generated by the virus. The superhighway becomes a sluggish footpath to use an analogy.

Organisations could consider using external scanning services, such as message labs. “It is one option to move one layer away from the problem using an organisation that specialises in scanning. Some organisations use content filters to weed out all executables from incoming attachments. However, the success of these systems depends on the policies used to control them. Also, intrusion detection systems won’t stop an invader, but at least you can see what’s happening.

However, despite growing sophistication, many viruses still spread by convincing recipients to open a malicious attachment. For the majority of incidents it does come down to the human factor.

The human factor needs to realise that 90% of the time, it’s down to them to think before acting. In other words, surely by now, most internet users must realise that elements of the internet are malicious and not every e-mail is what it appears. The number of internet users still not using a firewall, an anti-virus product and spyware application simply defies imagination. It’s not as if they are expensive because many good applications such as Zone Alarm, AVG Anti-Virus and AdAware are in fact free.

“You either stop an attack at the beginning with a firewall and intrusion detection system or learn about it after the fact.”

Dr Byte appears in Chiangmai Mail every 2 weeks and if you have any questions or suggestions you would like to make, you can contact me at Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.