Columns
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Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Beer and More 

Money Matters

Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner

Your Health & Happiness:  Journal of the American Medical Association reflects the devastation of HIV/AIDS

Dr. Rebecca Lomax

For almost forty years, the cover of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has featured exquisite reproductions of paintings from great artists. The works of Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Rembrandt and Vermeer have graced the page along with many of their peers in the art world. These beautiful journals, packed with the research of countless physicians and other health care professionals, are seen in the offices of medical practitioners and researchers around the world.

This month is different. According to Dr. M. Therese Southgate, who writes an essay each month describing the fine art reproductions on the cover of JAMA, “It has become a tradition for JAMA to omit a cover image on the theme issue devoted to HIV/AIDS. Because neither images nor words can express the worldwide devastation caused by HIV/AIDS over the past quarter of a century, this year the cover story is omitted as well.”

The opening day of the Fifteenth International AIDS Conference in Bangkok was Sunday, July 11, 2004. At its press conference held in the Oriental Hotel that day, JAMA Editor in Chief, Catherine D. DeAngelis, MD, MPH, introduced four panels of researchers who presented synopses of their work. Published in this month’s edition of JAMA, the research, as well as the journal, reflects the struggles of the medical community all over the world to develop effective treatments and preventive interventions in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.


The Doctor's Consultation: Acne! Not the zits again!

by Dr. Iain Corness

The other morning I managed to hack the top off a zit (good medical terminology for an acneiform pustule) while shaving. This actually brought a smile to my lips, as it always makes me feel young when I get a pimple, since pimples are generally the badge of youth. I sometimes refer to those years as the ages of oozing pimples and puberty.

The official figures are that it affects 90 percent of boys and 80 percent of girls in the 15-17 year age bracket.

There is a tendency to trivialize acne just because everyone goes through it, but when you take into consideration that acne scarring can be permanent, and that for the adolescent sufferer this can produce depression, social isolation and even suicide, then the condition takes a much higher medical profile.

The actual cause of acne, like many medical conditions, is still not fully understood, though we do understand the process. What happens is that there is an increase in sebum production by the oil producing glands in the skin. This results in blockage of the oil producing gland itself (the follicle) which then becomes invaded and infected by a bug called Proprionibacterium. This results in the pustular Mt. Vesuvius on the face which is the scourge of the teenage years. The all pervading zit.

Unfortunately, there is much myth surrounding the causation of the zits. The first is that it is caused by eating too much chocolate and fatty foods. While I believe there is a connection, the sugary and fatty foods are not the cause. I do believe it accelerates the condition, though, so you can put the chocolate biscuits back, Miss Noi!

There is also an underlying thought that acne is the result of poor hygiene. Let me assure you that this is not the case. “Blackheads” are actually not dirt and the dark colour is a combination of melanin and the skin cells and the plug of sebum.

Another problem comes from the fact that teenagers get told that acne is just a “normal” part of growing up and don’t worry about it. While most kids will get the condition, it is not “normal” and should never be thought of that way.

Another of the great myths is that prescription treatments do not work. This is not correct, the earlier treatment is instituted, the less likelihood there is of permanent scarring.

I am also very sorry, but I have never been a fan of the proprietary preparations which are heavily advertised on TV. If they can spend that much money on advertising, the expensive tube of wonder goop must have a huge profit margin in it.

So what treatments are available? Basically there are two types - rub it on (which we call topical) or swallow it (which we call oral therapies). The problem that occurs is the fact that there is no “instant” cure and treatment may have to be maintained for up to six months, or even longer. There is now an oral form of a group of drugs called retinoids too, and while these have really produced a small “break through” in the treatment of acne, they are also a very hazardous form of treatment which has to be done under the close supervision of a skin specialist.

So that’s the acne story. Don’t just accept it as inevitable - get treatment early!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
One young lady of my acquaintance tells me that her lease on her apartment is running out at the end of next month, and she has asked if she could stay in mine for a couple of weeks until she finds a new place for herself. I have told her before that I do not want a steady girlfriend relationship, and she has always seemed OK with that. We go out about once a week, usually to the movies. Should I let her do this? My friends are warning me that she might want more than just a night at the flicks. What is your advice?
Charlie

Dear Charlie,
Don’t be chump, Charlie. If she does not have to move out till next month, why can’t she find a place in the interim? Four weeks is more than enough time to find a place to stay that doesn’t have a Charlie in it. You are being set up. She will arrive with more than a change of clothes and a toothbrush, mark my words. If you want to try a night (in) at the flicks seven nights a week, then go ahead, but be prepared to use a crowbar to get her out! You have been warned by your friends, and now by me!
Dear Hillary,
Wee Ying (sister same Nit) has resurfaced and this gives me an opportunity to increase the speed and efficiency of the samlor. By having both Nit and Ying pedalling together (in English!) I shall increase the wheelbase to accomodate (sic) them securely but have yet to decide on the most visual layout. Ladies line abreast or ladies fore and aft? I must get to the bottom of this before the next visa run. Would you like a dickey in the rear, Hillary?
Mistersingha

Dear Mistersingha,
You remain confused and engineeringly challenged, Petal. (As well as being unable to spell - it’s ‘accommodate’ my little purple passion flower. That’s two ‘c’ letters and two ‘m’ letters.) According to my dictionary, the wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles (Concise Oxford), so obviously if you need to increase this you have the ladies fore and aft, as you put it. Thank you for the offer of a run to beautiful downtown Poipet, but Hillary does not need to do those things. However, why is it when thinking about you, the word ‘renege’ keeps on bobbing up? Again according to my trusty Concise Oxford, the word renege means to go back on a promise, undertaking or contract. I am sure you do remember all the promises of champagne and chocolates, even if you did not know the meaning of the word renege. Now that you do, and I have reminded you, I shall wait for the delivery boy bringing a nice package to my desk.
Dear Hillary,
My Thai girlfriend tells me that she has to go back to her village for a few days because her sister is getting married, and the entire family has to be there. Now I happen to know she hasn’t got a sister, because she told me that she only has a brother and that is why she sends money home to her mother each month. I asked her directly about this sister and she said that yes this is her sister, but different papa. She also seems to have many more cousins than she should have, because her mother only has one sister. Do you think this is an excuse to go back home, or is there something I am missing here, Hillary? We have been together only three months, but I like her a lot.
Confused of Chonburi

Dear Confused of Chonburi,
You have not had much to do with Thai families, have you, Petal? The Thai ‘extended’ family is such that almost everyone in your girlfriend’s village will be considered a ‘cousin’ and a ‘sister’ is someone who probably was raised in the family household, but not necessarily directly related. For the western mind, used to exact definitions of ‘sister’ and ‘cousin’ this can be confusing, but for the Thai, this is how village life always was, and always will be. Relax and let your girlfriend go back and fulfil her duties to her family. You will get along better in the relationship if you give her a little leeway. After all, she is trying to adapt to your strange ways. Time for you to do the same for her.
Dear Hillary,
I have noticed that some people have been critical of your advice from time to time. Don’t these people understand that nobody writes into an “agony” column in the papers hoping to get “real” advice. If you want psychiatric help, as one of the writers has claimed, then you see a psychiatrist, not Hillary. Or have I got it wrong?
Sam the Psycho

Dear Sam the Psycho,
Just lie back on the couch and relax, my troubled Sam. Of course you haven’t got it wrong. They have. But what worries me, is why are you worrying about this? Have you had this problem long? Would you like to share the burden with somebody? I’ll get nurse to make an appointment for you for next week.


Camera Class:  Fill-In Flash adds sparkle

by Harry Flashman

One way to pick most amateur shots from professional ones is by the sparkle in the eyes. The catch-lights just lift and add life. The additional lighting to the face also gets rid of harsh shadows and again helps give dynamism to any portrait.

Unfortunately Fill-in Flash is one of the least understood concepts in photography. In fact, many people are just so afraid of it they never try and condemn themselves to dark, featureless portraits or dreadful pictures full of bright highlights and disastrously dark shadows.

Why do we need fill-in flash in the first place? Let’s start with taking shots in the bright Thailand sun at mid-day. It is all very well saying that you should take shots in the early morning or late afternoon, but many family gatherings are lunchtime affairs. End result, big black shadows where the eyes are supposed to be and an appearance of bags under the eyes you could put a change of clothes in.

The other time you are going to need a flash fill is when the light (generally the sun) is behind the person you are going to photograph. The camera sets the exposure for the bright background and the foreground then comes out so dark you will hardly recognize anyone’s face.

With both of these shots, what you need is a burst of flash to fill in the shadows or the underexposed areas of the shot. Hence the name - Fill-in Flash!

With today’s automatic exposure cameras you must understand that it doesn’t know what it is that you are photographing. It doesn’t know that the person’s face in the picture is the most important item. All the camera’s brain can see is a mixture of bright lights and dark areas and it will give you an exposure to try and equalize these out. Unfortunately, in conditions of high contrast in the tropical sun, or back lit, the camera reaches its limitations and the end result will be underexposure of the part of the photograph you want. It’s not the camera’s fault - it just means you have to get smarter.

Fortunately, these days many compacts and SLR’s do have the Fill-in Flash mode built in, but many of you do not use it - or even realise that you have this facility! Did you read the book that came with the camera? If you have it - then use it! Please do look, the shots you will get back will be much better than you were getting before.

Now, for those of you who have the whole kit and caboodle - an SLR with an off-camera flash, this last section is for you. The whole secret of fill-in flash revolves around flash synchronization speed. Some of the very latest, and expensive cameras will synchronize flash and shutter speed all the way through to 1/2000th of a second or better, but the average SLR will probably say that the synch speed is 1/125th or even only 1/60th and it is this figure which drives the exposure setting.

In practice, what you have to do is put the camera on shutter priority, let’s say the 1/125th synch speed and then read off what the resultant aperture setting is when metering the subject’s face. Let’s imagine the camera meter tells you that it will be f11. Now put the camera in manual mode and fix the shutter at 1/125th and the aperture at f11.

Next step is to set the power of the flash gun, measured in f stops. You do not want the flash to overpower the natural light, so you set the power to be one or two stops less than the aperture you have set in the camera. In the example, the camera is set on f11, so you set the flash on f8 for one stop or f5.6 for two stops.

Take the two shots at the different flash powers and decide which effect is best and practice with this technique for better photographs. You will not be disappointed.


Beer and More: Bottoms up for Ninkasi the Sumerian goddess of beer

by Karl Eichhorn, Chiangmai Malting product manager

Beer has a long and interesting history. It is assumed that beer was invented by the Sumerians, who lived between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. They, or possibly their ancestors, may have discovered fermentation accidentally.

Ninkasi the Goddess of Beer

How exactly this has happened is not known, but it is assumed that bread was soaked in water to ease its swallowing by a sick person. The container with the bread and water was kept unattended for some time and the elixir started to ferment. One can only imagine how the patient, not accustomed to alcohol, reacted to this kind of intoxicating gruel. His curiosity, certainly, must have arisen after a rapid recovery.

He started experimenting with the brew, for strictly medical reasons of course but without any doubt, the discovery spread in no time within the community. Thus the Sumerians were the first to produce beer in an organized manner and it became the exclusive drink of the rich. They, it is said, consumed it by sucking it through golden tubes.

Whatever the truth about this event, anything was possible with people as brilliant as the Sumerians. In the epic of Gilgamesh, written about 3000 years B.C. and considered the origin of literature, bread and beer rank prominently.

In Egypt, archaeologists from the University of Yale excavated a bakery and brewery thousands of years old, outside Cairo. Besides vessels made out of stone and storage facilities for grain, they found clay tablets with hieroglyphics. One of these tablets refers to the process of brewing and praises Ninkasi the Sumerian goddess of beer.

As Ernest Hemmingway said many years ago, “An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with fools.” So thus I will end my beer history lesson for today.


Money Matters:  Storm Watch Update Part 4

Gold and Silver Fundamentals - Based on a an article by Jim Puplava March 2004

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

For those who want to know why gold prices are heading higher (besides the mindless spin coming from anchors and analysts), below are the last two in the series of fundamental reasons why gold and silver are heading higher.

7) Resource Scarcity

The final bullish factor is that there is a limited supply of actual physical bullion and gold and silver equities. The actual physical market in gold and silver bullion is no more than $30-35 billion a year. If investment demand keeps picking up, there won’t be enough gold and silver bullion around to satisfy investment demand unless prices head much higher. In the case of silver, there simply won’t be enough silver bullion to satisfy investment demand if delivery is demanded. (See Silver: the undervalued asset looking for a catalyst) Gold is also running a supply deficit. A $30 -35 billion actual physical market stands in front of an $80 -100 trillion paper financial market. There is simply not enough gold and silver around in aboveground stockpiles at today’s present prices to handle the impact of a 5-10% shift in asset preference by investors.

The three largest companies Newmont, Barrick Gold, and AngloGold represent almost 35% of the market cap of gold and silver equities. The Amex Gold Bugs Index (HUI) has a market cap of $51.46 billion. The Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index (XAU) has a market cap of $72.10 billion. The market cap of Newmont, Barrick Gold, Placer Dome and AngloGold is $47.89 billion. The rest of the industry is small by comparison. The four companies listed above dominate the industry in terms of market cap. The sector is relatively small by comparison to other industries. The floats of many issues are small and incapable of absorbing large inflows of currency. It is one reason why gold and silver charts all look parabolic by comparison. There are too few large cap gold stocks for the fund industry, institutional investors, or the Average Joe for the precious metal sector to absorb without prices going higher. I can only imagine what would happen if the dollar plummets, if the derivative market implodes, the stock market deflates, or if terrorism escalates globally. The gold and silver markets are simply too small, so prices will go higher.

8) Riding the Bull

The seven factors listed above are just a brief sketch of this new super bull market in precious metals that has only begun. The best part about it is that it has many sceptics, many worrywarts, and many non-believers. Those who have bought early have made small and large fortunes depending how they invested. But greater fortunes lie ahead. This bull market will be much bigger and different than the last bull market of the 1970s. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago in Open the Chequebook & Buy the Ounces, we can add a growing trade deficit, dwindling supply, and derivatives to the bull market equation. They are all drivers that will propel this super bull market much, much higher. Therefore it will have to be played much differently.

If you want to own bullion, buy it now while it is still available and affordable. In the not too distant future the price of silver will be going for what gold once sold for. Gold will only be affordable for the wealthy as it has always been in history. Throughout history silver was the money of the common man, while gold was the money of kings, princes or emperors. It may well be that way again. If you are investing in gold or silver equities, you’ll have to play this market differently.

Most senior and intermediate North American gold producers are selling at premiums of 30-33% above NAV (net asset value). Globally, the premium is under 20%. The best values lie with juniors and emerging producers. In many cases these stocks are selling at deep comparative discounts. The juniors and the emerging gold and silver producers will become the growth story during this super bull market. This is where the opportunity for multiple expansion remains the greatest. Higher production levels, higher prices, and spectacular exploration discoveries will drive this multiple expansion that will accompany higher prices.

Currently many of the emerging and junior producers are still selling at valuation discounts to the general industry. Many juniors are also selling at takeover discounts making them attractive to an intermediate or emerging producer to acquire. The best part about this is that few people believe it. Newsletter writers are cautious if not bearish. Industry executives are hoping to cash out or sell; not believing the price is sustainable. They’ve spent too much of their career in an industry depression that has lasted for two decades. Even the investment banking industry has its doubters. I know of a few firms that don’t believe their own balderdash. I constantly see them selling, shorting, churning or engineering moves that suppress the price of many juniors. They either don’t believe that we are in a super bull market or they have other motives. For an investor, their lack of belief or actions can mean opportunity if you want to buy at a low price.

Mark Twain once wrote that history never repeats, but it often times rhymes. The Spanish philosopher Santayana was slightly more to the point when he said that, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. It is the same for investment markets. Bull markets come and go in familiar waves and patterns. Each bull market is a little different than the one that preceded it. A discerning investor should learn what makes the market different and then devise a plan as to how to ride it.

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 [email protected] na tional.com


Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner: Elmo Thumb and Ben Boeing - going bananas on love

It’s not who you are, or what you know, it’s WHO you know!

Elmo Thumb and Ben Boeing were gibbons. Gibbons belong to the ape family. Other apes include chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas.

Monkeys do not belong to the ape family. Monkeys walk on all four legs and have tails. Gibbons have no tails and walk upright. Monkeys, gibbons and humans are however all primates. Apes are so close to humans in DNA that they should be considered as people.

Ben Boeing

Mrs. DoLittle has discovered that baby gibbons are very similar to human babies. They cry when they are hungry and laugh when they are happy. They also giggle when you tickle them and smile. They frown when they poo their pants and coo when you clean them. They also don’t start walking until they are about one year old, just like human babies.

Mrs. DoLittle really couldn’t find any difference between them and humans, except of course that they are hairy and after age one they don’t start speaking English or Thai. However if they are contented they start singing gibbon songs. Gibbons in the wild sing about their environment, their family relations, their neighbors, and even where the food is.

Elmo Thumb

A most depressing thing to see is a gibbon in captivity that does not sing. Living in a cage leaves nothing to sing about. At one point Mrs. Dolittle had seven little gibbons with ‘pampers’ on, hooting and singing from dawn till dusk. They seemed to have a lot to sing about living in a house, being carried around all day and sleeping in Mrs. DoLittle’s bed.

Why were they with Mrs. DoLittle when they should have been with their real mothers? Well that’s a sad story. Most gibbons and monkeys in captivity have the same traumatic beginning. The mother is shot by hunters who profit by selling the baby.

Gibbons are called the acrobats of the forest because they swing across the treetops and it is impossible to take aim at one with a rifle and shoot it. So therefore the hunters shoot aimlessly into the treetops with machine guns and just pick up whatever falls to the ground. The mothers get eaten. Baby gibbons cling tightly to their mothers for the first year and never let go. The hunters sometimes cut the babies fingers off to get it off the dead mother.

Little Elmo only had his thumb left on one hand when the Forestry Department brought him to Mrs.DoLittle to care for. He was handicapped for life and would never be able to swing in the treetops. He was however lucky. Ben Boeing had been planned to be the hunter’s dinner. To keep him ‘fresh’ he was not immediately killed. Instead, one of his arms and one of his legs were broken so he wouldn’t escape. He was found tied to the hunter’s belt.

Ben Boeing lived for a year with Mrs.DoLittle. During this time he had nightmares almost every night and woke up screaming. Sometimes he had seizures during which he bit his tongue until it was purple. One day he had a heart attack and died in my arms. I buried him under his favorite tree where I used to hang him in a basket so he could look at the butterflies and feel the breeze. I called him Ben Boeing because he flew in an airplane from Bangkok to Chiangmai to come stay with me. He also had a basket, which he loved to hang in and watch television. When he got excited over something he saw, the basket would bounce up and down and go ‘boing’, ‘boing’. In between his nightmares he had loads of love. When he woke in the morning to see another day, he would go bananas for love. He couldn’t get enough of it. When he got smothered with kisses he would laugh. It was the only time he forgot his problems. So we would do it all the time.

The moral of this story is: It’s not always who you are in life, or what you know that gets you places, it’s WHO you know!