Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dogs - Man’s best friend

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Beer and More  

Money Matters

The Doctor's Consultation: A Coronary Conclusion. Are you next?

by Dr. Iain Corness

With thanks to Mrs. Malaprop, the real problem I will address this week is that of a Coronary Occlusion. While this is a fancy name for blockage of the Coronary arteries, the end result is not fancy at all. It can be death, generally referred to as a ‘Heart Attack’.

Before launching into the real factors in the situation, a little understanding of what constitutes a ‘heart attack’ is in order. I think everyone understands that you have both red blood cells and white blood cells. The function of the red ones is to carry oxygen to the tissues, so that the tissues can survive. The heart muscle is no exception to this rule. This hollow muscular pump needs oxygen just like all the other organs you keep inside you - spleen, kidneys, lungs, bowel and so forth.

However, the inside lining of the heart (muscle) is smooth and impermeable to the oxygen tied to the red cells. In other words, the heart does not get its nutrition from the blood it pumps through it. In fact, the blood supply to the heart is through the specialized arteries called the “Coronary” arteries. These run along the outer surface of the heart muscle and then split up into smaller tributaries which dip into the muscle to supply it with oxygen.

Now if we are to consider that the heart muscle is probably the most important muscle in the human body (well, physiologically it outranks the other much more highly publicized muscle in males!) then it become important that this heart muscle gets a good supply of blood. And the quickest way that the supply can get altered is by blocking off the coronary arteries. This is most usually done via a slow process by which a small obstruction in the artery slowly gets bigger and bigger until eventually it blocks off totally and the heart muscle “starves” of oxygen and that section of the heart muscle, supplied by that artery, just dies.

This event of blocking is called a Coronary Occlusion, which may end up as a coronary conclusion if the section of dead muscle is large enough! The actual death of the muscle resulting from this is called a Myocardial Infarction, often shortened to the simple M.I. (The heart muscle is called the Myocardium.) The simpler name is ‘Heart Attack’.

In short, cardiac health is mainly involved in keeping the coronary arteries clean and clear. This is where our old friend Cholesterol comes in. You see, the deposits inside the artery are generally made up of this chemical and other blood fats. This makes a “sticky” patch in the artery and some blood cells get stuck there. This causes a clot to form and you have all the precursors needed to block the artery, with the occlusion leading to the infarction, to your family claiming early on your life insurance policy.

To be able to keep your arteries clear you need to have a nice low cholesterol, which can be done by diet plus medication if required. But first you need to know what your cholesterol level is. This requires a blood test, which can be done at your favourite hospital.

The most likely candidates for a heart attack are overweight, hypertensive smokers, with high cholesterol. If this is you, do something about it today. Well, perhaps that’s being a little bit too melodramatic, but you are certainly one of the cardiac high risk people in the population.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
Thai girls seem to still be very much into the mini-skirt fashion, but our office girl is taking the cake. Her skirts are getting shorter and shorter and she doesn’t squat down any more, she bends over the filing cabinet draws (sic). This has raised some interest in the lads in the office. Is this normal behaviour for a Thai office girl? Or is this being done for effect? I am her supervisor and wonder if I should be saying something?
Jimbo

Dear Jimbo,
It’s being done for effect, Petal. Despite what many expats think, Thai girls are modest - the immodest behaviour in bars is not the ‘norm’ for Thailand. As you point out, her hem length has raised some interest in the lads, and it sounds as if she has raised more than just interest! If this is inappropriate for your office, then you should bring this to her notice, but discreetly. If it is you that the ‘show’ is meant for, make sure she doesn’t get the wrong vibes from you. By the way, it’s ‘drawers’, Jimbo.
Dear Hillary,
I think I’ve done something really stupid. I remember you saying not to give money to the girls round here. I loaned ten thousand baht to one lady I know who said she would pay it back within three weeks. Well it’s a month now and I haven’t seen her or heard from her and her friends say she has gone up country. Do you think I’ve lost the money? What should I do now?
Foolhardy.

Dear Foolhardy,
You haven’t “lost” your money. You know perfectly well where it is. It’s with some girl up country, you silly fellow. You gave it away, that’s what you did with it. Mind you, I didn’t say you shouldn’t give your money away, I said you shouldn’t lend it. There’s a big difference. Yes, Hillary doesn’t think you’ll see that money again (or the girl). Next time give it to Hillary for “safe” keeping. At least you’ll know I’m enjoying it as French champagne and Belgian chocolates are expensive these days. In the meantime, what you should do is to buy one of those T-shirts that says, “I spent all my money on women and booze. The rest I wasted.” It fits. Hope the T-shirt does too.
Dear Hillary,
Why do some of the expat women say there’s so much for them to do here? I am complaining that I’m bored all the time and nothing like what they say. I am so bored that this makes me start drinking every everyday. Is it because they are pampered too much and are easily pleased? Or is it something else. What’s your take on it, Ms. Hillary?
Bored Barbara

Dear Bored Barbara,
The expat women who say there is lots for them to do have discovered the secret of life, my Petal. There really is so much, even for retirees to do, that they have to ration their time. Far from being easily pleased, the expat women I meet are strong characters who make life happen the way they want, and it is that that pleases them. It’s about time you really looked at your situation and look at why you have found nothing to do. I guess that you’re not really looking, but using ‘boredom’ as an excuse for the drinking. Am I right? You should go and get some professional help from a psychologist or a doctor. There is a reason that you are acting this way and you should realize this, and do something about it. Now.
Dear Hillary,
I am coming over to your neck of the woods at Christmas and was wondering if you could help me with accommodation? I want to keep enough money so that I can go trekking and I want to ride an elephant. Is Malaysia very far away, as I would like to try surfing? I only want to spend about seven quid a day for the place, is this possible? I know it’s probably a funny question, but I’m serious.
Trekker Tom

Dear Trekker Tom,
Don’t worry, my little impecunious one, Hillary has had sillier questions than yours over the years. When I first read your letter, I thought you were asking to come and stay with me, and I was about to suggest that if you brought enough bottles of bubbly, I might just be able to help you. Having said that, I must point out that Hillary is not a travel agency, a real estate office or an elephant mahout. Then I read the “seven quid” line. By “seven quid” I presume you are from the UK and this is about 500 baht in Thai money. Yes, you will get accommodation for that amount. Reasonable, basic, but clean, and with air-conditioning, which you will probably need, coming from the UK, not known for its blistering temperatures in December. Malaysia is the next country hanging off the bottom Thailand, getting closer to the equator, which you could have easily worked out by looking at your old school atlas. However, trekking and Malaysia do not go together at that well. Stick to Thailand’s north, where you can do everything you want to do, other than surfing, but white water rafting is here.


Camera Class:  Goodbye Howard Greene

by Harry Flashman

Howard Greene, one of Pattaya’s photographic people has departed from the scene. Unfortunately by his own hand, after he reached the end of his acceptance of his situation in this country.

This was a great shame, as Howard did have a rare talent in photographing people, with children and ladies, in particular. The images he left behind from the Jester’s Children’s Charity Fair each year and the UNICEF golf tournaments are testament to his photographic eye.

We all have our time on this earth, I hope Howard enjoyed most of his. I publish Howard’s photographs as my final goodbyes.


Dogs - Man’s best friend:The deadly killer Ehrlichiosis Canis

Tick Fever claims many household pets

Nienke Parma

Multiple trips to the vet with my pet dog Lucky, always ended up with improvement in her condition after treatment, but then a few months later she would be sick again. This continued for many months, till finally the vet pronounced the diagnosis of chronic E. Canis.

Lucky, three months before her death, looked in perfect health.

Ehrlichiosis Canis (E. Canis) is an infectious disease caused by a blood borne parasite, which lives and multiplies in the white blood cells causing them to die, ultimately weakening the immune system by inhibiting the basic function of the bone marrow - that of making new cells to replace the old and dying ones. This is followed by a devastating effect on the lymphatic system and other systems.

The disease has spread world-wide and has already claimed the lives of many dogs. In Thailand, the disease is known as Tick Fever. Transmission is through the bite of the brown dog-tick. A wide variety of wild and domesticated animals serve as the reservoir.

Three clinical stages are observed: acute, sub-clinical and chronic. The acute stage can be very subtle, usually mimicking a mild viral infection, and often goes unnoticed. Multiple symptoms can include weakness, intermittent fever, loss of appetite, eye and nasal discharge, swelling of the limbs, cough, vomiting bile, soft feces, diarrhea, weight loss, arthritis, neck or back pain, muscle wasting, rash, increased thirst and urination, incontinence, sensitivity of the skin, depleted coat, depression, pale gums, bleeding tendencies or seizures. The acute stage often lasts 2 to 4 weeks, followed by the dog either recovering but remaining persistently infected (the sub-clinical stage, which can last up to 5 years) or enters the chronic stage where the parasite enters the bone marrow.

Diagnosis of E. Canis is usually made on the basis of the history, clinical signs and the support of laboratory tests. However, the chance of detecting the parasite in the white blood cells is less then 30 percent. There is now a special test kit called the SNAP test, where the blood is tested for antibodies to the parasite. This method is much more accurate!

Treatment is through specific kinds of antibiotics and supplementation of liver supporting vitamins. It is during the acute stage that treatment is most effective and most damage can be reversed and a full recovery is possible. Once the parasite has entered the bone marrow, the damage is irreversible.

One peculiarity with the disease is that the dogs often do not look or act sick until their final hour, even though they are in a terminal stage of disease.

That is why alertness to the first symptoms is so important. But, of course, prevention is the best cure. However, this is an extremely difficult task, as ticks thrive in the hot and humid climate of this country and in many areas have shown resistance to tick control medicines such as Frontline and Revolution.

In case of doubt consult you veterinarian or just do the SNAP test.

For more information on dog issues, boarding or training contact LuckyDogs: 09 99 78 146 or [email protected] yahoo.com


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

In the last edition we explored what is actually going on with Thailand’s Internet. In this issue, I ask if we have any real options with the choice of internet connection? Are there any reliable ISP’s and is one better than another? Lastly, what choices do we have to connect anyway? The answer is broken down into groups of connection options to make it easy to compare options.

Dial-Up Modem

There are plenty of offerings here, but all suffer from the same antique telephone system that still uses 50 year old telephone lines and analogue telephone exchanges. More of an issue outside the major city areas, the rest of us have a plethora of choice and decisions we can make.

While your PC may be reporting a connection of 44-48K (the connection speed), and modern computers usually have the latest 56K modems, I guarantee the reality is significantly less as signal strength is degraded by poor line quality and so on.

Web Connection Kits vary widely but two examples include the Inet Access Kit 500 baht (as low as 5 baht per hour after office hours) and CSLoxinfo’s Biz Kit 30 providing 30hrs for 720 baht. Don’t forget that most ISPs here and overseas use a ratio of 9:1 when they set up modems for users to connect through. That’s why at peak times, you only get online after dialling a few times. For every 9 of you, there’s only 1 modem.

(The other thing people constantly complain about is, after spending 30 mns getting on line, the connection hangs after 10 seconds). This is usually caused because you connected to a faulty modem or this could also be caused by Thai Internet connections to the outside world. Dial-Up Modem gets a 2.5 star rating (because the infrastructure is so old). I am amazed how many of us still rely on it. Tip: Those of you living outside the city area should consider slowing your modem connection speed to 28K or 33K. Believe me it works and I will explain why another time.

ISDN

Expensive and not everyone can afford this, but there are better and newer options anyway. This gets 2 stars because only someone with very deep pockets is going to be able to afford it.

Broadband

Broadband can be equated to the size of the highway. The bigger the highway, the more traffic that can be handled at the same time. Clog up with too much traffic during rush hour and your speed will drop dramatically.

Broadband is the not so new, but new for Thailand, hi tech connection solution and this can be broken down into 3 real choices. Satellite, ADSL and Cable. There are currently two fibber optic connections out of Thailand. A superhighway and a small country lane.

Satellite

Chiang Mai seems to be in a black hole and the early offering from CSCOMs iPTV was not good at best. A 256K down and 56K up connection was around 6,000 baht (approx. $150 US) per month at the time. Major issues seem to have been resolved by using larger satellite dishes and different configurations. Bear in mind the cost of the satellite dish, the special modem, the installation and your bandwidth use. For example, you are given 2GB download as part of the mid-size package. But every Mb downloaded over 2GB adds to the monthly charge. Upload is limited to the speed of your modem unless you can afford the more expensive Satellite Down and Up choice (and what happens if it’s cloudy).

Our customer support at the time dropped this bombshell by mistake: the modem speed is actually limited to 33K not the 56K advertised. The iPStar package seems to have resolved the early iPTV issue and I am advised that the connection is now stable and works well, especially for out of town customers. Satellite gets 3 Stars.

ADSL

All the main players are now offering broadband of one kind or another. What I find interesting is that the concept of broadband here is not the same as back home. So forget whatever you think it should be and face the reality of what is considered Broadband in Thailand. Also remember that ADSL comes hand in hand with the telephone line.

For example if your telephone line is provided by TOT, they will partner with the ISP to bring this to you and will have their own costs which will be charged monthly. The advantage is you only pay one fixed fee per month and not 3 baht for each dial up connection because the line is connected all the time. Not all ISPs have relations with both TOT and TT&NT, so check who provides your phone line before heading off to see an ISP.

One other thing to note down is that TT&NT collect a node full of customers first before setting anyone up. In this way they actually provide a more stable service than TOT. You may have to wait a long time till your node can be set up.

The costs are all pretty much the same and you will be looking at a small business connection of around 6,500 baht (approx $160 US) per month for an unlimited 256K down and 128K upload per month. The giddy speed of 512K down and 256K up will lighten your wallet around 9,500 baht (approx $235 US) per month. Plus VAT and of-course the phone company charges. Don’t forget there will be connection costs, set up costs and the cost of an ADSL modem.

ADSL: TOT only gets 3.0 stars. Try to get a stable connection on Friday afternoon with a TOT phone line and you will understand why. ADSL: TT&NT loses in the ratings because of their policy regarding local nodes, sharing bandwidth and only gets 3.5 stars. They should be around 4 stars.

In the next edition of Dr Byte, we will look at the Home ADSL and cable alternatives.

If you have any tips or tricks that you’d like to share, or any questions about your internet or pc experience, contact me: Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.


Beer and More: Beer in the early middle ages

Cervisiam Bibat - You shall drink beer!

by Karl Eichhorn, Chiangmai Malting product manager

In the early Middle Ages baking and brewing was a woman’s job. Later the monasteries explored the art of brewing. During this time, Carl the Great became Emperor (800 A.D.) and 300 monasteries were counted in Bavaria alone, of which some had engaged in making beer 150 years earlier.

We still get it everywhere - Weihenstephan Beer (Photo courtesy of Horeca Chiang Mai)

The reason why monks took up brewing beer was apparently their longing for a tasty and nutritious beverage complementing their meals which were rather simple, especially during periods of fasting. Liquids, they argued, do not break the rules of fasting (liquida non frangunt ieunum). Thus partaking of beer was always permitted, so the consumption of beer in monasteries rose considerably.

It may, in part, have been stimulated by the hard physical work monks were undertaking, as well as by their demanding and rigorous religious exercises. It has been documented that monks were permitted to drink 5 liters of beer a day.

Soon, beer was not only brewed by monks, but also sold by them in inns belonging to monasteries. Through their increasing involvement in brewing beer, monks developed their skills, boosting the quality of their product.

Not only monks attended to beer, as we can read from a famous nun by the name of Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179 A.D.) who emphasized in her book ‘Causa et Cura’ (cause and treatment of diseases),”cervisiam bibat” - you shall drink beer!

In 1040 A.D., the Bishop of Freising bestowed the right to brew and serve beer on the monastery of Weihenstephan. Today, Weihenstephan is still the oldest existing brewery of the world.

Let me end today with one of the many beer jokes which has probably been heard for centuries: A man walks into a bar and orders a beer. While chatting with the bartender the man says: “I have a method that will enable you to double the amount of beer you sell every day.” “Really?” says the bartender, “How?” “Very simple. Just pour full glasses.”


Money Matters:  MBMG Special Report – Cinderella without a clock

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

Our currency view for some time has been that there would be a short term US$ rally in the second quarter of this year (which we have already seen) but that from that peak we would see either a gradual orderly fall back in the value of the Dollar to around 10% below the pre-rally levels against the average value of the international basket or an uncontrolled major drop in the value of the US$.

Either way, being out of Dollars is a smart short term move and moving back again when the picture is clearer and the fall has occurred would be a good long term strategy. This has long been our view and that of our preferred analysts, but this was summed up extremely neatly by John Taylor of Market Insights in one of his more recent weekly reports.

“Last month Warren Buffet caught our fancy, while encapsulating our outlook, by commenting that the carry trade was ‘like Cinderella at a party with no clocks.’ In that case, he commented, ‘it is very hard to leave early.’”

With the violent recent downward correction in emerging market bonds and equities, and the twitchiness in most developed equity markets as well, it is possible that the clock is starting to chime midnight. But, we think it is too early. The problem is, as Buffet stated, we can’t be sure. We don’t know what time it is. We are using the term “carry trade” in a broad way, as financing a house with floating rate debt is a carry trade. When a corporation issues fixed rate debt, and then swaps it into paper whose rate is based on one month Libor, it is entering a carry trade.

Banks have been in this business for years, but now many near-banks, non-banks, and hedge funds are in it too. Everyone participates in this strategy because the payoff is so high, and looking back over the past few years, the risk has been so low. Today overnight money is near 1.00% while five year US Notes are around 4.00%. With returns like these, leveraged many times over, the whole world sits up and pays attention.

Because the carry trade is so profitable, and capital projects are so easily financed, the economy is running away with excitement. Nominal growth rates over 6% are way above the cost of short-term money, and this leads to more growth. To slow the economy, short rates should be around 4%, which is the rate that would not stimulate more borrowing, the so-called “neutral” rate. The problem as we see it is that the Fed cannot move rates anywhere near the 4% level without causing a massive financial dislocation. Because the various carry strategies have been so profitable for so long, many of the structures that have been created for them would fail with higher rates. One clear example is the housing market. If floating rate mortgages, now roughly 4.10% - which is 1.10% base plus a 3.00% spread, went to 7.10% - prices would collapse, builders would go broke, and Congress would be up in arms. Many hedge funds and other financial institutions have followed LTCM’s path, a bit more circumspectly perhaps, but there will be many market disruptions when rates rise.

The Fed is walking a fine line, and it is possible that their goal is unattainable. In that case, the economy will either expand further in an uncontrollable fashion or will collapse under the weight of higher rates. The Fed has told us that rates will rise slowly, but the market has forced them up rapidly, and there are the mini -panics in various weak spots, like Brazil and Turkey.

We believe the Fed will follow this gradual path, but the crises will grow. Even a ผ point move could be enough to cause a global dislocation and turn the US economy down. Our cycles, the best clock we know, say this will happen in the third quarter. As the economy buckles, rates will begin to drop again and the dollar will plummet. The US dollar is presently being supported by the strengthening US economy and its out-performance of Europe and Japan. Because of the economic growth, dollar interest rates have been rising, both in absolute and relative terms when compared with the euro and the yen. It is clear that the US rates have been strengthening against European rates for more than 1ฝ years.

US rates began to rally in the fourth quarter of 2002, along with the US equity market, but the increasing attractiveness of dollar deposits did not begin to affect the dollar until the beginning of this year. This lag, which we have discussed before, is a consistent factor in the foreign exchange market. As the lag is somewhere between one and two years on average, the rising interest rate spreads today should translate into a stronger dollar next year - all else being equal. As we are forecasting a peak in US interest rates after July and a decline to new lows in 2005, there will be a further dollar decline ahead. The question is when?

Of course, this is not the only factor impacting the value of the dollar. However, even if we just look at these differentials, they point in favour of a weak dollar. Although US rates have been climbing for a year and a half, Eurodollar rates are still below Euribor rates and have been that way for almost 4 years. When US rates are below European rates, taking the lag into consideration, the dollar also tends to weaken. As we expect US rates to drop further below Europe after July, the dollar will decline again.

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]