Vol. III No. 32 - Saturday August 7 - August 13 2004
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Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Beer and More  

Money Matters

Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner

Information Technology

Your Health & Happiness:  Flowers are a great way to say ‘I care’

Lotus and the ‘lotus effect’

Lilian Tip

Almost all flowers symbolize something. Their meanings go way back in history, others have a very special significance for individuals, and others are symbolic, like the rose that is today the symbol of love, or the Lotus, considered sacred by many.

This pink Lotus flower grows in a huge Chinese garden with leaves up to two thirds of a meter in diameter.

The history of the Lotus flower goes back to Egyptian hieroglyphics, Roman and Greek mythology and Chinese history.

The lotus symbolizes an empowering idea. It grows in mud, the deeper the better. Yet it stays pristine. Even though mud clings to the leaves of most plants, not so with the lotus. Nothing sticks to it. An outstanding example of the fusion of biology and technology, this is the ‘lotus-effect’.

A German botanist found out why leaves of the lotus plant stay clean and dry at all times. Billions of tiny wax-covered nubs on the surface ensure that dirt particles cannot cling to them and are simply washed away by drops of water dripping down the leaf. The technical replication of this natural phenomenon means a revolution to our everyday lives. Building facades, painted with special paint, require minimum further care; cars washed with clear water are instantly clean again.

The lotus means something clean and pure; it is a symbol of Buddhism and a sign that out of mud something clean and beautiful can prosper.

Think about the purity and simplicity of the lotus, when you go to the market to buy this flower. It is one of the most complex on this earth.


The Doctor's Consultation: Unsafe sex and STD’s! Are the tourists at fault?

by Dr. Iain Corness

I read the following in a newspaper in this country a couple of weeks ago, “A senior (Thai) health official blamed unsafe sex by foreign tourists for a news report that many young tourists, particularly those from Britain and Germany, went home with sexually transmitted diseases (STD), including HIV.”

Apparently the acting permanent secretary of public health said the government was already providing free condoms in about 60,000 places which offered sexual services. How interesting! I was always under the impression there was no sex for sale here. Or have I got it wrong?

The report went on to say that 69 percent of British-born men with heterosexually acquired HIV were infected through sex while abroad, as were a quarter of women. “Of these men, 22 percent were probably infected in Thailand,” the report said.

What all this means is simply that young people still take risks, which quite frankly is the nature of young people everywhere. What this report is also showing is that these young tourists didn’t bring their STD’s here, they picked up their STD’s in Thailand and then took them back home to the UK.

What has been glossed over is the fact that in the horizontal folk dancing field, it takes two to tango. Nobody gets AIDS from masturbation! The safe sex thing has to be practiced by both parties.

The acting permanent secretary of public health is further quoted in the report, “They might have had sex, without protection, with risk groups such as teenagers and those outside sex services. Such groups still had low protection rates.” To be perfectly frank, I do not believe that these groups are the ones offering sexual favours to British tourists. The commercial sex outlets represent the pool of infection into which the collective English willy is dipped. Or have I got it wrong? The 22 percent of British tourists returning with STD’s are invited to drop me an email if I have.

The study was apparently done between the years 2000 and 2002, which immediately makes me suspicious of its accuracy relating to today. Much has been done regarding public education in Thailand, such as that by Senator Meechai Viravaidya whom I saw carrying out condom promotions in Nana Plaza in Bangkok, so I believe that the chances of our randy British tourists getting their STD’s in Thailand are very much less than they were three or four years ago. (Or at least I would certainly hope so!)

By the way, the Germans came in for a case of the pointed finger as well, saying that a study of male German sex tourists in Thailand showed that most were aged 30-40, single, with well-paying jobs and only 30-40 percent used condoms.

So where does all that lead us? Well, it points the way (not the finger) to achieving a decrease in STD’s, and that is to look at the source of infection in this country. Undoubtedly it is in the commercial sex area where the bulk of the STD’s can be found, from Herpes to AIDS. The full spectrum. Surely it behooves us all to educate the commercial sex operators in safe sexual practices, and to have regular checks done on practicing prostitutes, both male and female. And follow that up with active treatment and further education.

Let the Brits and the Germans educate their own in safe sex. Let us educate our own. Or is that too simple?


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
Every weekend when I come back to work I find that someone in the office has been using my computer to get on to the internet and visit porn sites. I have asked if anyone knows, but like most things in the office, it seems to be “nobody”. This upsets me as I do not go and look at such things and I would not like the others in the office to think I do. I am a married woman in my mid 40’s and this upsets me so much. Why do they need to look at naked women like that? It is so degrading. I think the others in the office (90 percent males) laugh at me behind my back, but I really have to do something about it. Suggestions?
Anti-Porn Prudence

Dear Anti-Porn Prudence,
I am a little worried about your work mates. 90 percent males, you have written. What is the other 10 percent? Woman, beast or bird? No wonder they do funny things like using your computer. You have let this blow so much out of proportion that you are overlooking the simple and obvious, my Petal. To log on to the net you have to give a password, right? Just change your password, and do not tell anyone in the office. Do not check the little box to automatically remember the password and they cannot use your computer to get their vicarious thrills. However, you should also live and let live, but use other people’s equipment, eh?
Dear Hillary,
I have a fifteen year old son and as he was growing up I was worried that he might turn into a hoodlum as he was a bit of a tearaway when he was younger. The problem is that he has gone the other way. Now he is lazy, says he is bored all the time and just lolls around the house after school and at weekends. How can a fit young fifteen year old boy be bored? Hillary, I don’t know what to do. He used to like going to the movies or swimming, but lately he just won’t get out from his own shadow. Have you any ideas?
Worried Mum

Dear Worried Mum,
This is your first or oldest child, I am sure, as any mother who has older children could have set you right here. It is all part of growing up, Petal, and unfortunately this growing up process does not stop until they are aged about 35 years old for boys or 26 years old for girls. I am sure that if young mothers were told about these things, there would be no further problems with over-population! You just have to grin and bear it, I’m afraid. I do suggest that perhaps you should look at joining some women’s groups, as contacts with more experienced Mums could have saved you all this worry.
Dear Hillary,
Massage places seem to be everywhere and seem to be very popular too. I went into one to have a foot massage and they were very insistent that I take my sandals off before I even stepped inside. I was so annoyed with them pointing at my feet I almost left there and then. Then I had the foot massage and it was so painful I had to get the girl to stop. Is it always like this, or did I go to the wrong place? If this is what they are like I cannot imagine why they are so popular. The one I went to has all the conditions it can cure on the window, and frankly I don’t believe it.
Fancy Feet

Dear Fancy Feet,
I will let you into a secret, my Poppet. Hillary doesn’t like foot massages either! Perhaps Hillary has tender feet, but foot massages are too painful for me. Maybe that’s the secret - there is so much joy and relief when they stop! But there are many of my friends who swear by them (me, I swear at them) and often go once a week. They do not appear to have many other masochistic practices, so they must enjoy the experience. Foot massage has a long history, going back to pre-Buddhist times, so I presume somebody, somewhere, enjoyed it enough for it to remain a financially sound business proposition right through till today.
Dear Hillary,
I have been to Thailand a few times and am interested in finding out more about being a monk. I believe there are some short courses. Have you heard of them? I have always been impressed watching the monks in their orange robes going along the streets with their begging bowls in the mornings.
Matthew

Dear Matthew,
I would recommend that you get the following books before going much further, “Buddhism Explained” (ISBN 974-7047-28-4) by Khantipalo Bhikkhu, “Phra Farang, An English Monk in Thailand”, by Phra Peter Pannapadipo, (ISBN 974-202-019-1) and “The Good Life. A guide to Buddhism for the Westerner” by Gerald Roscoe, Asia Books, (ISBN 974-8206-56-4). Read these before ordering the saffron robes, Petal. You will get all the information you will need and important contacts as well. Good luck!


Camera Class:  A photographer’s nightmare

by Harry Flashman

Let me tell you about the time (a few years ago) when I suffered from every photojournalist’s nightmare - taking two rolls of film in for processing and getting no images back. Not one! The images ‘supposed’ to have been there included three portraits, a photo essay on a band, a dinner for visiting dignitaries and a restaurant. Total disaster!

The reason? An internal camera malfunction. Never mind camera breakdowns - this was nervous breakdowns!

The next night it was on again, another band, more dignitaries plus some candids. My camera bag has more than one camera in it, so camera number 2 was brought out. It failed after six shots! By this stage I was sure this was the result of a personal vendetta, and I began to try and remember anyone whose toes I had stood on during the week.

The important thing was to settle down and look at the problem. Cameras are just machines and have to obey the laws of physics. Settling down mentally and physically, and looking at camera 2 and then doing some elementary diagnostics showed that the battery had failed. Simple! This particular camera can be run in a full manual mode (no electronics at all), but the shutter speed then becomes fixed at 1/250th of a second. This was not going to be suitable for the night shots I had to do.

“Thinking ahead,” I remembered that both the cameras were interchangeable, so taking the battery out of the first (disabled) camera, it was possible to get the second one going again. All this was being done while bands were playing and people parading, waiting to be shot for posterity! It was not a fun evening.

Why had this happened and what had gone wrong? Well, the first camera had shattered its shutter, and in the second camera, batteries are just batteries and so must eventually fail. But this was not really the full story. I have to take some blame as well. Every photographer should carry spare batteries as well as another roll of film. Every photographer should also sit down every year and clean and service his or her camera(s). Claiming overwork and too busy is no excuse!

Now if you do not feel confident enough to do this basic maintenance, then you should get it done for you. It will certainly reduce the chances of camera breakdowns, which at best are frustrating and at worst diabolical in their consequences. (We just had a relative over on holiday whose camera also failed to deliver, and all her holiday memories are just that - memories. There are no photographic prints to take back.)

So how do you do all this maintenance? If you are a camera whiz, then you can do it yourself, but you are probably much better advised to visit the main agents for your brand of camera and let them do it. However, putting fresh batteries in each year is a simple task that you should do religiously. I suggest that on your birthday each year, you give the camera a birthday too and fit fresh batteries. It won’t stop shattered shutters, but it will fix battered batteries.

A cheap movie?

Most photographers also have an interest in moving pictures, and keen amateur Ernie Kuehnelt brought the following to my notice. It’s in Bangkok, but we all have reasons to go to the capital these days. It is about a group called “House” that is screening ‘good’ movies, the kind that are judged at Cannes and the like, as well as more mainstream ones such as Finding Nemo or Kill Bill (starring Monica L?). The others come from many countries, but have subtitles in Thai and English (or at least the ones Ernie Kuehnelt saw had them). He also reported that the ticket prices were very cheap. The venue is RCA in Bangkok and you can get more details by going to www.houserama.com, but it is all in Thai, so have your favourite Thai reader around! They bill themselves as Bangkok’s only boutique movie theatre.


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

In the last edition of Dr Byte, we looked at some of the choices we have to connect, which we broke down into groups of connection options to make it easy to compare options. This week we look at the Home ADSL and Cable options.

Home ADSL:

The good news is that those of you who just want home use have a very reasonable alternative offering which is genuinely low cost compared to us business people. It is unlimited BUT ... yes I am sorry, there always seems to be a but! ... but, you will share your connection with many others. That’s how the providers have spread the true cost and at the same time, make some money. What does this mean?

Well it’s simple enough. You get a genuine ADSL broadband connection, but you share the broadband with up to 40 0r 50 others. If your connection is 128K, its not a true 128K because this is divided by 40 to 50 people sharing the connection and one time (and yes it will happen, 50 people will connect at the same time and you will watch your connection die a horrible and painful death just as you’re trying to download your Auntie Edith’s or boss’s urgent/critical e-mail about something).

Home based connections are provided by both TOT and TT&NT direct and the costs vary from 600 baht ($15 US) per month to 900 baht ($22 US) per month (or a little over) plus the cost of the modem and the phone line charges. From my own perspective, I think a 600 baht unlimited connection is worth the unstable connection caused by sharing the bandwidth with 40 or 50 other users at the same time. This option gets 3.75 stars because it’s a very cheap alternative.

Cable

TA (Asia-Net) is now bringing cable connection to Bangkok and Chiang Mai and after checking out connection speeds, costs and availability, there is little difference between one and the other. Cable is meant to be more stable and while it’s interesting to hear different opinions about cable compared with ADSL, having gone down this path some 8 weeks ago, I can say that our own experience is not good. Set up costs were very expensive, exceeding 17,000 baht (more than $400 US) for the setup, installation, cable modem and router, plus more than 10,000 baht (approx $250 US) to change our whole internal office network to suit the new high speed connection. Installation was slow and delayed by petty bureaucracy, and despite several visits by TA/Asia Net technicians, the connection continues to be unstable and hangs several times per day. This option only gets 3.0 stars and should have got at least 4.5 stars if it was as good as it was claimed to be.

So to re-cap, Thailand’s internet connection problems are a result of both internal problems (antiquated 50 year old telephone lines, analogue telephone exchanges, Etc.) and external problems (international issues outside Thailand’s control such as virus attacks, poor fibre optic connections, poor support and so on). The cost of overhauling this system is excessive and the strict controls applied by the Thailand government to keep control, prevents outsiders investing and creating effective solutions.

The choices for an internet connection are many and include broadband. However, remember that what you experienced overseas as broadband and what is on offer here, are not the same thing. Leave your expectations overseas. While most people in Thailand still connect using dial-up modem, this service is marred by antiquated infra-structure. Satellite, ADSL and Cable are now available, and prices, connection speeds and service are all very similar with no one really offering a superior service. ISDN is expensive and really only for someone with a deep wallet.

The small and medium size business enterprise (SME) has little choice for now but to dig into their piggy bank and pay whatever they can afford. Considering that a 512K ADSL connection here can cost upward of 9,500 baht (almost $235 US per month), I think that’s extremely expensive when you realise you can get a T1 / T3 or cable connection (several gigabytes of connection speed used by most business’s in the USA) for considerably less.

The city based home user has the best options of all and depending on who provides the telephone line, can remain online all day, all night, every day for as little as 600 baht per month. But remember, you will be sharing your precious bandwidth with up to 50 other connections/customers.

Last and not least, the Thailand government has clearly said that it would like to see Thailand compete globally in the IT marketplace. Chiang Mai is being advertised as an IT hub and while we certainly have the skills, until these issues are really addressed and resolved, countries like India will continue to dominate not only the global IT market, but also the S.E. Asian market.

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 late Middle Ages

The invention of beer tax!

by Karl Eichhorn, Chiangmai Malting product manager

While towns grew and prospered during the late Middle Ages the consumption of beer became a habit. Nobody wanted to give it up. The intake of beer was more hygienic than that of water. Through the production of beer, while adding various herbs, health threatening bacteria were destroyed. This was a strong reason (or was it an excuse) why the art of brewing succeeded and developed into an independent craft.

A boiling tank as can be seen today.

In no time, county chiefs introduced beer tax (Biersteuer). The revenue department came running. In many places the inns of monasteries, which were excluded from the tax, were forced to close.

Occasionally, the mixture of herbs (called grit) was replaced by hops. During the late middle Ages they already had the knowledge that beers produced from hops were characterized by an extended durability, which was outstanding for this time. This durability is based on the aseptic properties of the hops. The advantage of using hops for the brewing of beer was soon realized by the taxing authorities.

It became obvious that only tasty and long lasting beers had a market and those were the ones to be taxed. The strict rules for the brewing of quality beer (until today it is called ‘Reinheitsgebot’), were announced in 1516 A.D., which permitted only three items when producing beer. Water, malt and hops which represented not only the first law of food standards but also a means to fixing the tax on beer consumption.

Beer consumption grew rapidly, mostly in towns with flowering universities. Often breweries belonged administratively to towns, even to the universities themselves. Whenever beer taxes were increased, it was often that students and citizens protested which resulted in bloody riots and even setting fire to property.

Let me end with the drinking quote of the week, “If your doctor warns that you have to watch your drinking, find a bar with a mirror.” John Mooney.


Money Matters:  Scott Campbell’s views on Thailand

written at the start of May 2004

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

Last month, MBMG invited Scott Campbell, the man whose Growth Fund has been judged by S&P to be the best in its sector for the last 6 years, to pay his first ever visit to Bangkok. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing Scott’s views on a number of topics, starting appropriately enough, with Thailand.

Writing this week’s view from Bangkok I felt it was prudent to look at this economy and market. Having given a presentation to the British Chamber of Commerce and talked with a number of financial adviser clients, it is pretty apparent the spectacular rise in the Thai SET index of 100%-plus last year has renewed interest in the local equity market. David Fuller, global investor and analyst has been very bullish from London on this market and a buyer of LSE listed Thai funds. Once I had managed to avoid the zillions of scooters but not the oppressive heat, this is what I found.

This Buddhism dominated country of 60million-plus population traditionally relied on agriculture and is the world’s third largest exporter of rice. The currency is known as the baht and is approximately 40 baht to 1US$. The economy is set to grow at 7-8% this year as interest rates stay low with strong consumption. According to Moody’s, Thailand’s external payments and fiscal position remains strong, with no appreciable overall effect from the outbreak of the bird flu. While public debt and contingent liabilities remain relatively high, the post 1997 build-up in the public sector debt has been due primarily to financial sector losses. Thailand’s strong export performance, high international reserves and flexible macroeconomic policy framework also gives authorities much more leeway to manage any external shocks as in the late 90’s.

Thailand experienced a small trade deficit in March as imports racked up record highs in tandem with the strong domestic economic growth. However, last year exports grew to US$80.2bn and imports also rose 16% to US$75bn leaving a strong current account surplus. Exports have grown 6% in 2002 and 16% last year after a decline of 7% in 2001. The commerce ministry is expecting 15% export growth again this year and Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak’s projections are for the current account to remain in surplus for the next three or four years. According to UBS Warburg economist Christa Janjic, “Thailand is firmly in the league of the fast growing Asian export countries” and I have to agree.

Interest rates are low, real low. The government bond yield curve looks remarkably like the US, with 1 month money at 1.05% and 10 year notes just under 5%. The business pages of the local papers had a number of reports concluding that they will stay at these levels for the rest of this year. Most observers say a rate hike is unlikely before the general election early next year but the biggest impediment to a hike appears to be excess liquidity.

The Asian crisis in 1997 hit Thailand hard. The financial sector has now mostly stabilised as a result of institutional and regulatory reforms, together with public fund injections into ailing institutions, although according to Moody’s some residual weakness remains. The Stock Exchange of Thailand’s (SET) index is dominated by Banks and other financials, but interestingly has a whole sector entitled Companies under Rehabilitation! The market cap of the index is US$107bn, which is not small and the SET has skyrocketed from 350 at the start of 2003 to current levels around 670. This gain of 90% was significantly higher as the index has eased back from above 700 in December. The index should have support at 660 according to local stockbroker Tisco Securities but they are concerned that a chart pattern has emerged with the relative strength of SET versus the Asia Pacific region falling below its 50 day moving average. This would be a significant negative relative indicator.

The baht peaked and has been in a pretty stable range of Bt45 to Bt35 since 1999. In summary, the SET trades on a PE of 10 times with earnings forecast to grow 25% again this year. The economy has recovered from the Asian crisis of 1997 and has significant reserves, a current account surplus and big growth prospects. Interest rates will undoubtedly rise and the boom in property and financial stocks will probably slow but exporters are solid. Like all emerging markets there is political risk, so conservatism is warranted, but Thailand appears to be in pretty good shape and we should be buying into weakness subject to the important proviso that key support levels hold. After all with such famous and delicious dishes such as Phad Thai, Tom Kha Gai and Panaeng Gai as the real export success story, how can they go wrong!

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]


Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner: Blondes have more fun

Last time I wrote about gibbons, which are known as the ‘lesser apes’. This week I’d like to introduce you to an Orangutan which is part of the ‘greater ape’ family.

Sambee with ‘her’ blonde wig!

Her name is Sambee and great she is. Not only is she intelligent, perhaps even smarter than some persons I’ve met, but she is also one of the greatest characters I’ve ever met, human or otherwise. In fact, I think that since her only companion for 16 years was her caretaker at Dusit Zoo, Sambee thought of herself as a human too. She certainly acted like one.

Her keeper accompanied her to Chiang Mai Zoo and was to stay for a month to get her accustomed to her new surroundings. The management had decided it was time for her to become an orangutan again. A huge enclosure had been built for her and a male companion was on the way from Indonesia.

In the meantime Mrs. DoLittle’s job was to distract her from her old keeper. This proved to be rather a difficult task as she was used to going everywhere with him, even to the toilet and restaurants around the zoo where she’d eat fried rice with him. The other keepers used to refer to Sambee as his ‘mia noi’! When he finally left four months later he told Mrs. DoLittle that if he didn’t go back to Bangkok NOW, his ‘mia luang’ would divorce him. She claimed he loved Sambee more than her!

The last evening before he left, I found them sitting in a private area of the zoo. As I got closer I saw that they were smoking and drinking. As soon as Sambee saw me, she threw her cigarette on the ground. But the glass she clutched close to her chest and with very long lips extended into the glass, she slurped it dry, and then threw the glass into the nearest bush. Her keeper had tears in his eyes. I knew he would miss her dearly and I backed out of there. As I left, I saw Sambee searching the bush for her glass!

The next morning Sambee had a hangover and slept till lunchtime. I took her for a drive in the zoo director’s car to get her mind off her keeper’s absence. She sat in the passenger seat and whenever she wanted to look at some of the other animals, she’d bang her hand on the roof of the car. When she’d finished, she’d beep the horn to go on. While we were driving she’d study her face in the rear vision mirror on the door and make faces at herself. It was very difficult to keep a straight face and not drive off the road. I couldn’t laugh at her. She got offended. I’d done that once before and then she snubbed me for days.

Everything Sambee did, she was very serious about. Once she pulled a blonde wig from a visitor and put it on her own head. Then she looked at herself in the mirror and grinned. The moral of this: Blondes do have more fun!


Information Technology: More ‘byting’ in the ‘computer wars’

Computer and learning center under one roof

Nopniwat Krailerg

CM Computer is spending 10 million baht to expand its educational center and provide a parking area to accommodate 200 cars.

Pornchai Jitnavasathien

“We do not fear our new competition, Panthip Computer Plaza, after our survey showed that it attracted customers during its initial period but did not affect consumer behavior in the long term,” said the owner of CM Computer, Pornchai Jitnavasathien.

Pornchai said that CM Computer was the first center in Thailand to bring computers and learning to the same location. It has been operating for over five years in Chiang Mai.

Car parking for 200 cars

“CM Computer is the only center whose owner opens the building to the public to rent, unlike other centers whose owners also operate their own shops on the premises and disadvantage other rented shops,” claims Pornchai. CM Computer is also the largest tutor center, with over 10 academic centers including dancing, singing and tae kwan do classes.

With the Rachada Academic Center (RAC), it opened a tutor center in late July in response to public demand. Local teachers will be allowed to tutor in some subjects, but only skilled teachers in Accounting, Administration, Management, Marketing, Physics, Chemistry, Language and Mathematics will be chosen by CM Computer to teach there.

Pornchai said he wanted to support local people and prefers distributing income by hiring local people. To date, CM has provided work for over 2,000 local people.

CM Computer is also offering a special promotion where customers who spend 1,000 baht will get a gift and a lucky draw coupon to try for 30 gold necklaces. The lucky draw takes place on October 31.

We await the second wave in the onslaught!




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