The Doctor's Consultation: Coughs and sneezes
by Dr. Iain Corness
A catchy headline, but not mine I am afraid. The honours go
to the late Tony Hancock, a fine British comedian, who whilst he could make
other people laugh, found life too depressing and ended it all in Sydney
Australia many years ago. So sad.
However, sniffles and sneezes can try the patience of the
proverbial saints too. It really is a condition that makes you miserable.
Drippy nose, sneezing, croaky throat sometimes and generally feeling sorry for
Colds characteristically come at the change of seasons, and
right now we have had a change of season at least four times a day. As I write
this, the water is streaming down outside, after three hours of brilliant
Now if you think you are having a hard time of it with this
cold of yours, wiping your nose with a tissue every five minutes, think about
how it was for the more primitive civilizations who did not have such
luxuries. By the way, did you know that the reason we have buttons on the
sleeves of jackets was to stop the wearer wiping his nose on his sleeves!
Your cold, or Coryza, as we medico’s call it, is not
produced by a bacterium, but by another of those pesky viruses. This is why
antibacterial agents (called antibiotics) do not work for the simple cold. In
fact, not much works for it, but there are a few options to make life a little
better while we wait to get over the condition.
The first thing to do is to dive into your supply of
paracetamol which you keep at home or if you don’t, then that is what you
get at the pharmacy, not antibiotics. Take two 500 mg tablets four times a
day, keep your fluids up, prop yourself up in front of the telly and make the
most of your enforced 24 hour holiday. It does help get you better quicker.
Paracetamol comes as different trade names such as "Sara" and
"Tylenol" and "Panadol" - just read the packets carefully.
Staying away from other people in the office or wherever is
an important factor too. I am not going to directly accuse any of my office
mates - but, the thought is always there. The cold virus is very contagious
and hangs around in the air every time you sneeze. When you release millions
of virus bodies in the moisture droplets in your sneeze, they have the
potential to go and infect the next person who inhales them. Or even groups of
people. This is why colds run in epidemics - so don’t get too close, please!
Of course, there are times when the cold progresses into
something else. The sniffles turn into a really sore throat, you start to
cough up green or yellow coloured phlegm and you begin to run a fever. What
has happened is that another infecting organism has come along and hit you
while you are down. This is particularly likely if you are a smoker, because
the oxides of nitrogen in cigarette smoke depress your ability to shift mucous
and funnily enough lowers your resistance too. Just another of the three
million nine hundred and ninety seven good reasons to give up the fags!
Now it is time for the appropriate medication - and your
doctor can advise you on this. Please don’t just go to the pharmacy and grab
some "antibiotics". That is not good medical practice. Let your
Some friends of mine are coming to Thailand for their first visit. They
are all middle aged couples (and even older, but they wouldn’t like me
to point that out), but they knocked me over with their request that they
want to see a sexy show while they are here. I know that these go on in
the night entertainment areas, but these are not the places I would go to.
There I was finding out about temple tours and they want to be middle aged
voyeurs? Do you think this is a good idea, Hillary? Or should I tell them
that everything is changed these days? I really don’t know what to say.
Dear Flabbergasted Fanny,
Do I think what is a good idea? The fact that your friends have become
peeping Toms? Oh dear, what a predicament, my Petal. Here you are, as pure
as driven snow, and your grubby friends want to see what they have been
missing out on for the past forty years! However you have really no need
to worry. Those sort of shows do not exist in Chiang Mai any more, or so
the nice policeman told me, last time I was asked about this. And we know
that policemen would never tell a lie, don’t we! However, there are
plenty of karaoke bars that do not seem to have incurred the wrath of the
upholders of justice. Perhaps your naughty friends might try a night in
one of those. But do warn them that the Fun Police will be taking them
back to their hotels shortly after midnight, when all our red buses turn
into pumpkins. Tourists have to learn to toe the line too, it seems these
This is a very important money problem. I tried to speak to Mum about it,
but Mum thinks it’s nothing, but to me it means a lot. It’s my pocket
money allowance. My Dad handles the money in the house and it’s not as
if I don’t get an allowance. The problem is that the other kids at
school are getting more allowance money than I get. I’m 14 years old and
my Dad only gives me 200 baht a week and I find it bad because I don’t
get as much as the other 14 year olds. Some 12 year olds two classes below
me get more than me. Do you think it is fair Hillary? How much do you
think I should get?
Dear Schoolgirl Sue,
It is not as easy as saying that if Jane gets 500 baht then so should you.
There are lots of differences between families in the way that they divide
up the family budget. Some families make the children responsible for
their own toilet items or entertainment, for example, so those children
will appear to get more of an allowance than children who get their
toothpaste from the family budget. Do you have to pay your own way in the
movies, or does Dad give you the money when you go? If you reckon you’re
underpaid, and Mum is not supportive, then all you can do is to sit down
with Dad one day when he’s in a good mood and discuss things as you see
it, but do remember to listen to how Dad sees it too. There are always two
sides to everything. Hillary also believes that any allowance should
reflect the work you do in the family - it should not be a ‘free’
hand-out every week. Mum and Dad work for their money, and so should you.
When was the last time you tidied your room for example?
My problem is very embarrassing. I am an ordinary looking 25 year old
woman of average height and weight, but my bust development stopped when I
was about thirteen, so I now have only a 30 inch bust. I know I have to
live with this problem, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Try wearing a
30 A bra. I normally wear big sloppy shirts to disguise my figure, but I
cannot go to the beach because it is so obvious that I have nothing on
top. I know the easy answer is to avoid going to the beach, but there is a
man at work who is showing interest in me and he is a very keen sailing
enthusiast and has asked me out on his boat a couple of times. Have you
any advice for flat-chested girls, Hillary? Please don’t say a padded
bra as I gave up trying with those many years ago.
Two Fried Eggs
Dear Two Fried Eggs,
At least you have a good sense of humour, and it is probably that which
makes you attractive to this man in the office. You can always wear a
bulky yachting parka style of top I suppose, but if your fried eggs are
really holding you back then you should consider plastic surgery. It can
be done in Chiang Mai and I know the better Chiang Mai hospitals have
cosmetic surgeons on staff. You’ve nothing to lose by enquiring, and it
sounds to me that it would do your self esteem a power of good.
Camera Class: Helmut Newton -
the continuation of an icon
by Harry Flashman
At the beginning of this year, one of the world’s more
controversial photographers died in a car accident. His name was Helmut Newton,
the man who turned fashion photography on its ear in the 1960s with his
extremely confrontational images, and left the world the most amazing
photographic book, called "Sumo" - a tome which weighs in at 66 kg and
costs USD 1,500. Even some of his previous works, which are now out of print,
can fetch large sums. I have in my collection his book published in 1984 called
"World without men" which is currently valued in the USA at USD 250.
However, as well as his photographic books, his widow has
made sure that her husband’s works are still seen, displayed in the art
gallery in Berlin, bequeathing the entire collection to the German authorities.
"His heart was in Germany," she said at the opening of the exhibition.
For some people it seemed a strange statement, as Newton is not a German name,
and many people believe that Helmut Newton came from Australia; however, this
was not the case.
Newton was truly a unique character. He was born in Berlin in
1920, where he was the son of well to do Jewish parents who wanted him to join
the family business. However, even in his early teens, he was single-minded in
his purpose, saying that he wanted to be a professional photographer.
Consequently, he was apprenticed to the studio of Yva when he was 16. However,
two years later, with hostilities looming and his father arrested by the
Gestapo, Newton was sent to Australia in 1938. It was there, in Australia, that
he westernized his German surname into the more easily pronounced (and accepted)
one of "Newton".
After the war he resumed his photographic work gaining some
international clients and then moved to make Paris his base in 1961. His hard
edged approach to his fashion shoots stood him apart from the others of the day,
as well as his exacting perfectionism in the actual taking of the photographs.
He was the ultimate hard-driving ‘Type A’ personality.
In 1971 he suffered a heart attack and gave up the impossible
time schedules he used to take upon himself and embarked on a style of
photography that was more personally pleasing for him. That style was, however,
even more confrontational, with women fighting often being a recurrent theme,
and erotic images and innate cynicism showing through his fashion portfolio.
Some of Newton’s work has been labeled pornographic, but he
refuses to admit to any definite demarcation between the erotic and the
pornographic. He just has an eye for the image that will produce the most
impact, and even the fashion shot published here has that powerful presence
A portrait done by Helmut Newton was not an airbrushed soft
focus beauty shot, but was like the one of Paloma Picasso - powerful and traffic
stopping. As Paloma and her famous father were themselves.
Now while many will say that Paloma’s portrait is
"art", Newton himself had no time for the "Fine Art" school
of photography. Speaking about those photographers he said, "I admire their
steadfastness but often find their pictures boring. I have to thank the ‘consumer
society’ - for whatever success I have had, not foundations, museums or
grants." He spoke further, "When I take pictures I don’t do it just
for myself, to put away in a drawer. I want as many people as possible to see
In his lifetime, this photographer became an icon for many,
and the legion of photographers who have copied his style are also a tribute to
him. When Newton adopted the ring flash to his fashion shots, used in medical
photography, sales in ring flashes went wild. However, none have the sharp edged
way of presenting the subject matter as did Helmut Newton.
Helmut may have gone to the great darkroom in the sky, but his desire that as
many people as possible should see his photographs lives on, through the
generosity of his widow.
Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums
by Dr Byte, Citec Asia
In answer to some recent and interesting questions, this week
is devoted to Google’s new e-mail service and the end of the floppy disk. Yes
you read that correctly - RIP.
Q. Dear Dr Byte
I read your article a couple of issues ago about Hotmail. I
agree with your comments about using web mail. But I heard that Google is
starting an e-mail service with 1Gb of space for accounts. Is there any
advantage in switching from Hotmail apart from the extra space and everyone
sending their e-mail to [email protected]?
For those who have noticed, Google is getting bigger, but is it getting
better? The latest offering from Google is GMail and its arousing some concerns
around the world. The massive amount of disk space is a nice bonus, about 500
times more storage than a service like Hotmail offers for its standard free
email account. However, did you realise what is actually going to happen when
you use the service? For example, an e-mail message from wife to husband
confessing to denting the car would arrive with links to Car Body Repair Shops
stuck all over your e-mail. An email from a friend suggesting dinner would
arrive with links to restaurants and so on.
This could be the future of free email services if Google has
its way. Personal messages would be scanned and loaded with advertising relevant
to their content before they have even been read by their intended recipients.
It’s the price users would pay for the gigabyte of free email storage the
company is offering with Gmail, a service now on trial around the world.
But experts say Gmail could fall foul of a clutch of laws
around the world, even violating proposed changes to telecommunications
interception laws, which could attract criminal penalties. It’s the second
Google product to raise alarm. Gmail borrows heavily from the company’s
controversial, paid-for search listings, where advertisers pay for their
products to appear at the top of search results.
Unsolicited ads could also put Gmail on the wrong side of
anti-spam legislation around the world. While Google would have the consent of
Gmail subscribers, it would have no way of getting permission from the people
subscribers send their ad-laden messages to, potentially making Google liable
for some serious fines. "Anti-spam laws cover a lot of different
relationships [between advertisers and email users] but what Google is proposing
didn’t exist when most laws were being drafted."
Gmail’s soft launch came just weeks after an Australian
privacy expert published a paper warning of the privacy threat of social
networking products, including Google’s Orkut. A major concern was the means
of extending the network by encouraging members to upload their regular contacts
to the network, sometimes without their permission - a data harvesting method
described as "disturbing". An open letter signed by more than 28
privacy groups is urging Google to suspend Gmail "until the privacy issues
are adequately addressed." What do you think?
Q. Dear Dr Byte
I recently upgraded my Desktop Computer and I was very
surprised to be told that the Floppy Drive is now an extra addition at extra
cost. Ok, Ok, not a lot extra, but it’s not integral and that’s the point. I
always rely on moving small files around on Floppy Disk and at one time even
backups onto floppy disk, so what has changed?
Happy Floppy User
It’s not hard to understand why this is happening. Typically, floppies
(floppy disks) store just 1.4MB of information. That’s not enough for most of
today’s commonly used files. If you want to store complex Word documents,
spreadsheet data, PowerPoint presentations, digital photographs or MP3 music,
you’ll quickly bump up against the size limit. Some computer makers still
build them into systems and, yes, some people continue to use floppies, yet the
simple truth is that disks are slowly disappearing from supermarket shelves and
CDs offered a viable alternative. Nowadays at a cost of
around 25-100 baht, a CD-R stores 650MB or so. However, if you don’t already
have one, you’ll need to buy a CD-Writer and burning software isn’t always
straightforward. For example, in Windows, you can’t just drag and drop files
to a CD-R as simply as you can copy them to a floppy.
Some proprietary software will let you use CD-RW discs like
jumbo-sized floppies, but discs made this way often run into compatibility
problems when moved between machines. What’s more, CD-RW discs have a high
failure rate. Although high-capacity DVD hardware and media are rapidly dropping
in price, they don’t really resolve these shortcomings.
CD technology is inadequate in another way. It isn’t
suitable for moving large amounts of data between computers and gadgets such as
PDAs, digital cameras and MP3 players. The attraction of these devices is their
small size - so there’s no room to accommodate a CD or DVD drive.
So what’s taking the place of the good olde floppy? Users
of digital cameras will know what I am talking about, as the explosion of
digital cameras over the last 5 or 6 years has seen the development of Flash
Memory. Flash memory is a smarter way to transfer data between gadgets,
computers and other devices. In plain English, flash memory is a type of storage
chip that retains information when the power is switched off. It comes in a
variety of formats and capacities. You can buy anything from 8MB to 1GB in a
single package and, depending on the format, expect to pay around $1 per MB (in
USB drives, sometimes called USB keys, package flash memory
in a device that plugs directly into a computer’s USB port. They start at
about 16MB in capacity and go up to 2GB, although manufacturers say 4GB devices
should be available soon. USB drives don’t require any special software on
Windows ME, Windows XP or Mac OS X. You can’t use them with Windows NT, but
they will work with Windows 98 if you install drivers. They don’t require an
external power source.
To use a USB drive, you simply plug it in. After a few
seconds it shows up as an external drive on your system. You can immediately
drag and drop files to and from the drive - it’s that simple.
Increasingly, USB drives are commodity devices - prices are
more competitive than other types of flash memory and you can expect to pay as
little as 50 cents per MB or even less during promotions.
In order to compete, some manufacturers add security features
such as password protection, which means your data is safe if someone steals
your drive. Some companies have built MP3 players using the USB drive
technology, so you can store songs or data files on the same unit.
USB drives have one other especially useful feature. They can
be made bootable. That’s great for troubleshooting faulty computers and
rescuing important data. It’s also possible to install software applications
that automatically run when the drive is inserted into a socket.
When shopping for one, watch out for the drive’s width -
models wider than about 23mm might crowd out other USB devices in other ports on
your system. If your machine has USB 2.0, the compatible drives are up to 40
times faster, but they draw on more power and don’t work with some hubs. On
the other hand, they will also work with USB 1.1.
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.
Money Matters: “The name’s Bond - Treasury Bond”
MBMG International Ltd.
There is a danger that with equities being
such an extremely risky investment right now, investors will again turn to
favour bonds, or fixed interest securities, as they were doing prior to last
year. During the last equity market downturn, bonds comfortably outperformed
equities from 2000-2002 with global bond markets achieving double-digit returns
in both 2000 and 2002. However we believe that the danger now for investors is a
double whammy - a stock market collapse combined with falls in the value of
bonds. Therefore asset allocation has to take a much broader remit than
previously. Our clients will make positive returns this year, but I’m not sure
how many other investors can confidently say that.
However, before we write off bonds, let’s take this
opportunity to fully examine what they actually are and how they work. During
the 1970s, bonds were shunned by many investors, who correctly surmised that
inflation is one of the main enemies of fixed-interest investment because it
erodes the value of capital over time. In current financial markets, the
scenario has radically changed. Faced with an environment of protracted low
inflation, slow economic growth and uncertain returns from equities, it was
hardly surprising that the attraction of bonds resurfaced. The strong economic
growth that drove equity markets up and was such a threat to bonds in previous
market cycles has been replaced by low growth. The sophistication of the bond
market has also increased. Financial innovations have resulted in the emergence
of many different types of bond, and individual bonds are now subjected to the
most intense risk/return analysis.
The bond market has grown rapidly in size and plays a vital
role in the economy as a source of capital for governments and companies, and a
bond’s yield is also an indicator of the financial market’s view on interest
rates, inflation, public debt and economic growth. At the simplest level, bonds
take the form of debt issued either by a government or a company. This debt is
tradable and the investor effectively lends money to a government or company in
return for a fixed rate of interest and repayment of the principal at a known
date in the future. Debt may be short, medium or long term and the price will
depend on economic conditions and forecasts (particularly for inflation), supply
and demand, and the specific characteristics of the issuer. Government bonds
tend to be more liquid than equity investments and dealing costs are
significantly lower. For government and index-linked bonds, valuations are most
influenced by future interest rate and inflation expectations; if interest rates
rise, bond prices should fall.
In theory, index-linked bonds are not vulnerable to rises in
inflation as they offer protection of capital and income against inflation, and
provide a modest real return as well. In the UK, index-linked gilts are tied to
the Retail Price Index, which represents the most widely used measure of
inflation. The government bond, or sovereign debt, of major economies is usually
regarded as being of the highest quality since the debt or interest would only
be left unpaid if the government itself failed. Gilts, for example, which are
bonds issued by the British government, are regarded as free of default risk and
assigned a triple-A rating – the highest possible level. This is not the case
for all sovereign debt, however, as shown by the Argentinean default crisis in
2002. Indeed in the 1930s the UK was the only major nation not to default on its
bond commitments at that time, although even there the bonds were re-scheduled.
Corporate bonds, which are bonds issued by non-government
issuers, offer a higher yield than government bonds and, in a low-interest
environment, this has obvious attractions. The price paid for a corporate bond
reflects the market’s perception of the credit, or default, risk associated
with investing in it. Corporate bonds are said to trade at a credit spread, or
yield difference, to the risk-free government bond yield, and the greater the
risk then the greater the credit spread. In other words, the higher the credit
risk, the greater the return required by investors to compensate for the
additional risk. Investment-grade corporate bonds offer an excess return over
gilts, without excessive risk or the high downside potential of equity
investments. The potential for added value through good stock selection in
credit markets gives additional scope for performance. A major source of
out-performance in corporate bond funds is the avoidance of bonds that are
likely to suffer unexpected downgrades. While credit agency ratings provide a
guide (the higher the rating, the cheaper the cost of debt to the issuer) it is
vital in corporate bond markets to have a full understanding of the industry, as
well as a detailed financial analysis of the company, and a comprehensive
assessment of the management.
However for now, fixed income arbitrage is about the only
reliable way to make money on bonds in the short term as capital values will
come under severe pressure over the next 12-18 months.
The above data and research was compiled from sources
believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its
officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above
article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any
actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For
more information please contact Graham Macdonald on graham
Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner: Life is not easy in the jungle
‘Pop Eye’ the python
People often ask me about snakes. Mainly on how to keep them
out of their garden! Most people are afraid of snakes although there are not
very many poisonous ones in Thailand. But rather than guess as to which ones
are harmless and which aren’t, people prefer to be rid of them.
I usually recommend all old junk be removed. Snakes love old
piles of wood, so if you keep your garden clean on a regular basis, snakes will
disappear, as they don’t like to be disturbed. Also having dogs and cats
roaming around soon clears out any reptiles.
the sanctuary, if snakes come into the animal enclosures, we simply relocate
them to the forest. We once had a cobra, one of the few venomous snakes in the
country, living under a tree stump next to our birdcage for over two years
without it harming anyone around.
We respected ‘Rajah’ by leaving milk and raw meat for
him at night. But then one day, Rajah was killed by a trespasser. The man
thought he had done us a huge favor and couldn’t understand why we were all
crying at the sight of the dead snake. Some people think nothing of killing
snakes, even skinning them while they are still alive and drinking their blood.
They have no mercy for snakes writhing in pain.
Working at CM Zoo I realized there was much education
needing to be done to change people’s attitude towards snakes, so I went to
the snake department to see if there were any friendly ones which could be used
as educational tools. It so happened that a 4 meter reticulated python had just
been delivered. It had been someone’s pet and was supposedly ‘friendly’.
Mrs. DoLittle had never had any personal relationship with a snake before, her
heart jumped at the excitement. It was in excellent condition. How could anyone
refuse the temptation of touching it? It was soft as silk and the scales were
intricately decorated with marvelous patterns. It was just too beautiful for
words. I had to carry it around to let people see for themselves. How could
anyone possibly meet this guy and not be charmed?
I named the snake ‘Pop Eye’ because he is after all a
python, meaning he is not venomous, he simply squeezes the life out of his
prey, with his powerful muscles. I figured if he squeezed me a little too hard,
my eyes might pop out. Sometimes they almost did! But to make sure I wouldn’t
end up on the snake’s dinner plate, I told the keeper to feed him every day
and not once every few weeks which is the norm in the wild. That’s when I
found out the snake food comes from the university laboratory where they breed
white mice and rats for experiments. The things that are done in the name of
science! Either way, the little rodents get tortured to death. The problem is,
pythons won’t eat meat they haven’t killed themselves. This was one part of
‘Pop Eye’s’ life that I didn’t want to relate to the public, or we’d
lose his fan club. In fact, I couldn’t even be around when they fed the
snakes. To see all those scared little mice was too much for Mrs. DoLittle. If
feeding ‘Pop Eye’ had been part of my duty, I would have force fed him with
tofu and the zoo grounds would be teaming with little white mice.
But then I guess we’d probably have a very constipated
snake that would have needed a bit of squeezing himself. So it was a good thing
that all Mrs. DoLittle had to do was to pick him up and carry him around for a
while every day.
One day during an education session with Lanna International
School students, ‘Pop Eye’ gave Mrs. DoLittle the biggest surprise. He had
to go to the bathroom! Yes I discovered, along with dozens of other people, the
great scientific fact: SNAKES URINATE! Another great fact we discovered: IT
STINKS OF ROTTEN MICE!
I will swear upon my diary that snakes have a valve two
thirds down their body, which, when necessary, opens up and dumps ten liters of
toxic waste into the environment! This stuff is hazardous to Levi jeans and
toddlers and should be banned! The whole Niagara Falls event is over in 20
seconds flat. Then the valve closes so tight you would never guess it was ever
there. I’m convinced it’s a secret weapon in case of nuclear war against
the Cobras. Diluted it could probably be used as an alternative energy source
for SUV’s now that petrol prices are rising. In its raw state it could launch
rockets to distant galaxies. What I’m trying to tell you is that this was not
one of Mrs. DoLittle’s more pleasant experiences with Pop Eye.
The next day a big brown envelope arrived. It contained drawings of snakes
and letters from the students. Most of them were in the line of: "Gee, I
didn’t know snakes peed" but one of them made my day. It read,
"Thank you so much for showing me how snakes pee!"