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  

Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner

Letters from Lek

Your Health & Happiness:  Bird of Paradise

Lilian Tip

Resembling an exotic bird, that’s how the ‘Bird of Paradise’ flower, which belongs to the ‘family of bananas’, got its name. A ‘Strelitzia’ as people from Europe mostly call it, it is named after the actual birds of paradise, which are the most beautiful species of birds in the world, with brightly colored plumage and fanlike tails.

Or is the other legend true, that this flower was named after England’s Queen Charlotte, who was born Charlotte Mecklenber-Strelitz?

We may never know but we do know that the Bird of Paradise stands for good perspectives, magnificence and freedom.

The Doctor's Consultation: Take two aspirins and ring me in the morning

by Dr. Iain Corness

One of the commonest alarm bells to tell us that something is wrong is pain. And sometimes that can be with a capital P. Pain is often the presentation for many illnesses and physical conditions. For example, the symptom of a fractured rib is pain on deep breathing, coughing or sudden movement. The symptom of prostatic secondaries can be pains in the spine. Pain!

In fact, our skeletons are responsible for many of our pains. Fractures and degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis are certainly high in the list of likely suspects. Gout, which produces an inflammation commonly in the joint of the big toe gives exquisite pain - just ask anyone who has had it!

But surely it must be possible for us to lead a pain-free existence in this modern world of space travel and nonotechnology? In actual fact, it is possible to be pain-free, but at too great a cost. The chemicals that are strong enough to mask the pain are also strong enough to render your brain inoperative when taken over a long period. Turning one’s patients into “zombies” is not thought of as ‘good’ medicine.

I do also realise that there are times when you want “temporary” respite from pain. The footballer with a fractured finger can have local anaesthetic injected into the fracture so that he can do the two 45 minutes halves plus injury time and penalty shootout. That’s it. Not tablets for the next three weeks!

So why do we have “pain”? Pain is actually inbuilt into our systems for an important purpose. Damage control! Pain is what stops us damaging our bodies even further than they are damaged already. Let’s go back to the broken rib scenario. Most fractured ribs are “cracks” along the long axis of the bone, not a complete break right through, so the ends are not flapping around in the breeze. The pain stops the unfortunate person from doing too much and totally breaking it right through. Pain has a protective influence. With the person who has joint pains or gout, the purpose of the pain is to stop further damage to an already “crumbling” joint or one filled with sharp crystals. Pain makes you rest it, so that it can heal. When you stop to think about it, pain is good for us.

However, there are also chronic pain situations, and these are harder to deal with. Particularly when the pain is coming from a permanently damaged skeleton, or from a condition we cannot “cure”. This is where pain management comes in, and it is a fairly skilful region of medicine, let me assure you. Practitioners in this have to really understand what the patient is going through. What happens is that we (or you) have to maximise an ability of the body’s nervous system known as “attenuation”. This is where the nervous system receives so much pain stimuli that eventually the pain receptors “give up” through the overuse. However, getting to that stage is a long and painful road itself.

Chemical assistance is needed, but it is not just a case of taking big dose analgesics. In actual fact, much of the work in this area is with taking agents to slow down nerve transmission and other agents such as anti-inflammatories, which work with pain killers to make them more potent at a lower dose (so the brain doesn’t get mussed up)! It’s not easy. If you are suffering, you have my sympathies.

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I’ve read your column in great humor for a year, enjoying especially the bar-girl heartbreak letters. Of course if a bar girl is one’s personal standard, the world delivers accordingly. But look who’s crying now! The tables turned and I am blindsided by what a three-year Thailand veteran calls “the stealth hooker.” And stealth she was. After a many month courtship I recently learned this when she said we could get married if I first bought us a house. We had spoken of marriage but this was a new twist. Neither a problem for me nor unreasonable for her given my brief survey of Thai values to marriage and property. Unfortunately her request came from the impetus of a similar competing offer from a Japanese gentleman of even longer engagement and considerable financial support! Ouch. Blinders removed, I am now hearing many distressing stealth hooker stories. In my case this was not a bar meeting. No immediate sex or requests for money. She was part owner in a very small business. Nice car. Stylish yet conservative dress. I never guessed they were all yen based. So I beg to differ with your advice of months ago: to do in Thailand what you do in your home country to meet women more committed to love than cash. My experience has been, what works in Munich is not the same as New York, Los Angeles nor London. And certainly not Thailand. Even the upscale clubs here are filled with stealth women with several unsuspecting male wallets, college girls with multiple “patrons”, and business women with a world bank range of foreign backers. I ask you, to what exactly should my radar be tuned to detect these stealth hookers? Tattoos alone are not enough of an alarm. And where might those of us committed to honest true hearts go or do to feel some confidence that 80 percent of the women there (a figure quoted to me by both farang and Thai men) are neither below my radar nor my high standards?
Captain High Standards

Dear Captain High Standards,
Look on the bright side, Petal. I am sure you never thought that you would be saved from a fate worse than death by a Japanese gentleman rescuing you from a lass with a yen for yen! Your “brief survey of Thai values to marriage and property” was flawed, my Petal. The Thai lady who insists on such pre-nuptial agreements is not your kind of girl. However, consider this - the qualities of ambition, desire to get ahead and a wish to acquire money would be considered good attributes in a business partner/wife. But unfortunately not so admirable in a girlfriend, where you could be the supplier of the keys to the money box. Agreed? When there is great disparity in personal wealth, one side has to be more vulnerable than the other.

How do you tune your radar to show up your ‘stealth hookers’? Difficult, Captain High Standards, difficult. You are looking for a lady with no financial needs, and you have to ask yourself, would such a person want to go to your “upscale clubs”? Would such a person even be looking for a Captain High Standards? I was told by a young lady, without personal financial means, that it was just as easy to love where the money was, as it was to love where the paupers congregate. So there is no easy answer. Undoubtedly you will have more chance of success in finding the “honest true heart” outside the bar scene, but there is no guarantee of success. The answer lies in the Latin phrase “festina lente”. Hasten slowly! “Many months” is not enough to really get to know somebody, and when given an ultimatum that it’s house (or gold, or motorbike, or flotilla of water buffaloes) before marriage, that should have been enough of a warning. Buy your Japanese man a beer. He deserves it (in more ways than one!).
Dear Hillary,
It has taken me many months to get up enough courage to tell you that I am in love with you. Even though I have never seen you in the flesh, I dream about you every night. You have no idea how hard it is, living with someone’s image in your mind, and not know if you will respond to such a romantic notion. Can we meet? I don’t care where, pick the most expensive restaurant, and I will be there. Our table is the one with the champagne on ice and the Belgian chocolates, but just say yes.
Always yours, Lovesick

Dear Always yours, Lovesick,
My poor Petal, it is time you cut down the dose of the daily Vitamin V you are obviously taking. It is making life too hard for you, I can tell. You can also forget about dreaming of Hillary’s flesh. I certainly do not do anything like that on the first date, despite champers and choccies. Or even the second (unless you buy me a house first and even better, give me the house and a large wedge of cash so that I can properly arrange our wedding). No, I am sorry, I don’t think this is ever going to work for us. However, how many bedrooms did you have in mind for the house you are buying me? Two storeys? With a garden?

Camera Class: Seven Days in the Kingdom

by Harry Flashman

Trawling through my bookshelves I (re)discovered a rather fine book, Seven Days in the Kingdom (Times Editions in Singapore published in 1987, ISBN 0-920691-37-4).

With words by the eminent historian William Warren and photography by 50 invited photographers it is a very large book. The concept was that 50 photographers, from all over the world, were let loose in the Kingdom of Thailand for seven days. Their brief was to record something of Thailand in that week in March 1987. That ‘something’ was whatever took their photographic fancy.

Of course they were allowed to shoot much more than one image, and in fact the 50 photographers submitted 85,000 images at the end of that week. By simple division, that works out at an average of 242 shots per day, per photographer! And therein lies the first maxim of photography. If you want to get some great shots - take plenty of film with you! If some of the best photographers in the world shoot 250 photographs a day, just to make sure they got some good shots for a book, what are your chances taking one shot of the Tapae Gate in Chiang Mai, the Big Swing in Bangkok or the Big Buddha overlooking Pattaya? At that rate, if you got a good shot, it was a fluke!

It was also worthwhile just looking through the book to see some of the techniques used by the fab 50. This is a method that I have proposed more than once in this column. Have a look at what others are doing - not to slavishly copy, but to see ‘how’ others have approached different subjects.

The first noticeable fact looking critically at the published photographs was that there were very few photographs taken with flash. There were some with ‘flash fill’, but even the night photos were taken with ambient light. And they all ‘worked’. Sunsets, the Chedi in Nakhon Pathom, inside a disco in Bangkok, hawker food stalls at night, a fishing boat returning in the evening or inside a temple in Mukdahan. By using the available light, be that from electric bulbs, candles, moonlight or streetlights, the photos all have that ‘something different’. So my second maxim for photography is ‘Turn the auto-flash off’. Just try it and you will begin to get some good images. Even hand-held with a little blur is better than what I call the stark ‘startled rabbit’ in the gun-sight shots.

With 50 photographers all trying to outdo each other (professional photographers are a very competitive bunch) you might expect that there would be a great variation in the types of lenses used by the top lensmen. Now while there were shots taken with wide angle lenses, and some telephoto shots, there were no ‘extreme’ focal lengths. No ‘fish-eyes’, no 500 mm mirror lenses. The majority of shots were taken with what are known as ‘standard’ 50 mm focal length lenses. The lens that gives the closest to the coverage of the human eye.

So that brings me to my third maxim of photography. Make the subject the talking point in any photo, not the lens you took it with. By all means, use focal length to isolate your subject from the background, but don’t use a zoom lens just because you are too lazy to walk up close enough!

Some of the shots in the book were obviously posed or set up. A couple of photographers even traipsing around northern Thailand with drop-sheets to take shots of hill tribe people, but most of the shots were more towards photojournalism - the ‘f8 and be there’ style of approach. Sunset over the Mekong, with a fishing boat gliding by; Likay performers back stage, or worshippers at the reclining Buddha in Ayutthaya. You get these shots by being there, selecting the viewpoint you think will make a good shot and then waiting.

The photograph this week is a prime example of ‘f8 and be there’, this wonderfully evocative dark sky was taken by my wife, through the windscreen of the car with a point and shoot camera, on a trip to Bangkok!

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

In the last two editions, we have explored what is actually going on with Thailand’s Internet. In this issue read about whether we have any real options with our choice of internet connection? Is one ISP better than another? What choices do we have to connect anyway? The answer is broken down into groups of connection options to make it easy to compare.

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 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 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.

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, 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 or 50 others. If your connection is 128K, its not a true 128K because this is divided by 40 to 50 people sharing the connection at 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 for one month connection, setup / installation, Cable Modem and Router, plus more than 10,000 baht to change our 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.

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).

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

The small and medium size business enterprise (SME) has little choice 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, I think that’s expensive when you realise you can get a T1 / T3 or cable connection (gigabytes of connection speed used by most businesses in the USA) for less.

The city-based home user is the winner in the connection stakes 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.

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: From a witch’s brew to Pils

by Karl Eichhorn, Chiangmai Malting product manager

The term “pils” does not, as is generally assumed, originate from Pilsen, the town in the Czech Republic, but from a plant called Bilsenkraut (Hyoscyamus niger). There is no documentation in Pilsen to link the town to the beer called “pils”, though possibly, Pilsen was a supplier of Bilsenkraut and thereby creating the plant’s name.

Bilsenkraut is a bi-annual plant widely spread in countries with a temperate climate. The plant, with a height of up to 0.60 m prefers to grow close to human settlements along tracks and on heaps of discarded building material and rubbish. The oily seed of the herb contains a mixture of alkaloids, scopolamine, atropine, and cholin. To avoid poisoning children it has been removed from botanical gardens. The plant has an offensive odor, which protects it from being consumed by animals.

One plant can produce about 10,000 seeds helping its wide distribution. No wonder that some brewers poisoned their best customers when, with all good intentions they added too much of the herb, thus producing a witch’s elixir.

Today we know that an overdose of hyoscamin, an ingredient of Bilsenkraut, caused the problems, which were manifested by hallucinations, cramps, paralysis and the inability to feel pain. As to the latter, seeds of the herb were used as a remedy for toothache.

But there were other more trivial applications, wicked people, out to steal chickens, threw the seeds around the hen house and the nearby meadows. This prevented the chickens from making noise during the robbery and facilitated the transport of the chickens.

With the introduction of the “Reinheitsgebot” in 1516 it became forbidden to utilize Bilsenkraut for the brewing of beer. The herb, however, is still used today to treat certain diseases of the kidney and the urinary tract.

Let me end with my usual joke of the week: An unhappy wife was fighting with her husband spending all his free time in a bar, so one night he took her along with him. “What’ll you have?” he asked. “Oh, I don’t know. Guess, the same as you I suppose,” she replied. So, the husband ordered a couple of ‘Pils’ and threw his down in one shot. His wife watched him, then took a sip from her glass and immediately spat it out. “Yuck, that’s terrible!” she spluttered. “I don’t know how you can drink this stuff!” “Well, there you go,” cried the husband. “And you think I’m out enjoying myself every night!”

Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner: Sambee the human ape, Part II

No matter WHO you are, personal hygiene is very important!

Of all the items that were ever given to Sambee the orangutan, she treasured her red handbag the most. She held it to her chest and sighed over it. She got it for her 16th birthday party. She also got all the vanilla ice cream she could eat and many fruit baskets.

Sambee had such a great ‘presence’ that some people treated her like a deity, holding the gift above their own heads. Some people came and burnt incense around her, offering her bananas, which she immediately handed to the caretaker with a sigh of boredom. When she saw fruit baskets, she would nod her head and make some sounds of approval, encouraging the visitor to come closer. She’d start shaking her hands in anticipation. She would take it by the handle and clap the plastic cover with her palm. ‘Heh, heh, heh’, big grin. (Three ‘hehs’ for goodies.) Then she’d hand it to her caretaker and wait for the cover to be removed. Getting it back, she’d thank him with two ‘hehs’, then sniff the whole basket. If there was a tin of peanuts, with a ‘heh heh heh heh heh’, she would rip the top off in a hurry and pour the nuts in her mouth, munching with a big grin. Otherwise, it was grapes first, apples second, but the oranges she hid behind her back (to take back to her room later) and all bananas where handed to her caretaker. When the basket was empty, she’d turn it upside down and put it on her head like a hat. Heh, big grin! (One ‘heh’ was always when she had accomplished something.)


Then one day she got the red handbag. She took it gently and quickly sniffed it. Then she banged it on her chest, grinning from ear to ear. A long high pitched ‘eeeeeeee heh heh heh’ pierced the air. Suddenly she stopped, held the purse close to her face and looked at it closely. Grabbing it with both hands, she pulled it open, turned it upside down, spilling all the contents on the lawn in front of her. ‘Heh, heh, heh’! What have we here? A blonde wig, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a handheld mirror, a red lipstick and some body lotion. It was Sambee’s coming of age. It was time for her to become a woman, in preparation for the arrival of her future husband from Indonesia.

The wig was immediately plonked on her head. She was no dumb ape. She knew that ‘blondes have more fun’! Next she grabbed the toothpaste and stuck the brush in her mouth. She unscrewed the cap, squeezed all the contents out on her hairy chest. ‘Heh’! She lowered her bottom lip and let the saliva dribble down onto the toothpaste, making a mixture she then brushed her teeth with. After she was finished, she put the brush back in the bag.

Mrs. DoLittle showed Sambee, using the hand mirror, what a mess she’d made on her chest. Sambee frowned and signaled she wanted the mirror. If she wants something, she usually gets it. She looked at her teeth. ‘Heh’! Then she put the mirror back in the purse. I later was informed that her former keeper brushed her teeth daily. So now she was taught how to do it herself. She later learnt to do it with a glass of water and rinse the brush!

The moral of this story is of course: No matter WHO you are, personal hygiene is very important!

Letters from Lek

Hi Kids!

Today, I want to talk about codes. The code-language is a language that is used to tell others a secret, which you don’t want the wrong persons to know about.

The person who receives the message has to have the key, because otherwise he wouldn’t be able to read it.

I will show you two kinds of codes today.

One of the codes I made up myself, the other one was in a book, which was a special book about codes.

First of all I’ll show you the code that I made up myself:

Now since you know my codes try and figure this sentence out:

(]|^ /]> $![ :^!% <()” $]%^

The answer is: “Hope you can read this code”

A= ! G= * M= } S= ” Y= /

B= # H= ( N= [ T= < Z= ~

C= $ I= ) O= ] U= >

D= % J= ’ P= | V= ?

E= ^ K= + Q= \ W= ,

F= & L= { R= : X= .

Okay, we had enough of my made-up code. Now I’ll show you a real code.

This code is called “Phone-A-Code”.

1 = not in use, because
it has no letters

2 = ABC

3 = DEF

4 = GHI

5 = JKL

6 = MNO

7 = PRS

8 = TUV

9 = WXY

On a telephone there are usually always numbers and letters. In this code you use the numbers as the code. Each number from 2 to 9 corresponds to three letters.

Now you have to choose the letter which would make sense and which lets the word fit in the sentence.

Now, we will do the same what we did with the other code.

Try and figure out this sentence:

4283 2 6423 9335 263 7829 2665! 293!

Remember that one number can mean three letters.

The answer is:

Have a nice week and stay cool! Bye!