The Doctor's Consultation:
Feet, ankles and RSI
by Dr. Iain Corness
One of the readers wrote in with the following
heart-rending plea, “Could you write an article about ‘feet and ankles’?
My lovely Thai wife has asked me many times to squat down on my feet and
ankles. She has attempted to show me how easy it is to do. She slowly descends
and gracefully squats on her feet and ankles and it looks so easy. She tries
to get me to do it and when I try to explain to her that my ankles are not
like her ankles, she refuses to accept it. She insists that I try to squat.
So, I have tried to squat. I fall on my butt and roll around on the ground,
which she loves because she laughs and laughs. Maybe, I should have
Well, first off that surgery does not fix this problem. If
it is a consolation, you have lots of friends. Caucasians cannot do this. I
also find that when I attend the local Wat with my Thai wife, I cannot happily
sit with my legs tucked under me, feet respectfully facing away with palms
together in front of me. The best I can do is to half kneel while leaning
against a wall. Even then it is agony after 30 seconds!
I first came across the essential musculo-skeletal
differences between the Asians and the Caucasians almost 30 years ago.
Australia was in the grip of an ‘epidemic’ of Repetition Strain Injury,
known as RSI. Repetitive movements of the hand particularly, would result in
inflammation of the tendons which would swell so much the afflicted person
could no longer work.
On one visit to Thailand, the Occupational Health Unit at
Chulalongkorn University made it possible for me to go round a fish canning
factory in Bangkok to look for evidence of RSI here. I noted that the female
workers were doing repetitive work involving the hand and wrist, but none of
them were getting RSI. This either meant that Australia was in the grip of
mass hysteria (which it wasn’t), or that the Asian tendons were more
pliable, or supple, than those from the west.
Further private nocturnal studies in the chrome pole
palaces showed that the Thai female was indeed much more agile than her
western counterpart. Just look at a Thai dancer’s ability to hyper-extend
the fingers while the thumb and index finger are touching each other. You
can’t do that and neither can I. But I will wager our wives can!
There are other essential differences between the two
races. The distribution of blood groups is quite different and even the
cross-section of the hairs on our heads are different, with the Asians having
a circular cross-section, whilst the westerners is oval.
Asian people have other metabolic differences. Westerners
have enzymes to deal with alcohol, which Asians lack. This is why many Asian
people go bright red if they drink wine. The Asian response to many
medications is also different as far as absorption and response is concerned.
Now this is for those who have trouble learning Asian
languages. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies have shown differences in
the brain structures between those who can speak tonal languages (such as
Thai) and native English speakers. So it is not laziness on my part (or
yours). Our brains are different!
But getting back to the feet and ankles, there are also
ethnic differences here, and that’s why westerners have tall sit-up toilets
and Asians can use ‘squat’ toilets! But as the French say, “Vive la
Just the other week you were saying that this guy was stupid because he
loaned some money to one of the bar girls and you even said he should
think of it as a donation because he’ll never get the money back. How
can you be so sure? There must be plenty of cases where the girl pays
everything back. Have you got any figures to back up your claims, Hillary?
Dear Doubting Tom,
Have you any claims to back up your figures, Petal? Hillary has had
hundreds of letters on this subject over the years, and sure, sometimes
the guy does get his money back. I can distinctly remember the one letter
to that effect, which I received in October 1999. Does that give you an
idea of the ratio, Doubting Thomas? The reason they need the cash loans is
because they haven’t got any money, despite wild claims about their
earnings. That’s the same reason why they can’t pay the loan back
either. That is why banks (since 1997) want some sort of collateral or
surety. And the ladies in question haven’t got any of that either. All
they do have is quick wits and guys in bars who drink too much. You get
what you pay for, Petal, and in the bar scene it is very much a case of
putting the money in the slot machine and waiting to see if you win a
prize. You won’t!
I like going round the local markets and am fascinated by some of the
native carvings and jewelry you can pick up so cheaply. The stall holders
all tell me that most of it comes from hill tribe people, but some of my
friends say that much comes from Burma and China and even Malaysia. Are
they right about this?
Bette the Bargain hunter
Dear Bargain Bette,
I’m afraid your friends are right, Bette, much of the goods available in
fairs and markets come from the poorer countries, where they are produced
very cheaply. The traders make their money by buying at the lowest cost
and selling to the highest bidder. In this case it is you. However, look
at it this way - you’ve saved the hassle of having to go to these other
countries - and the air fares! And while thinking about where the goods
came from - don’t lend money to bar girls.
Can you help me with the “song taew” situation? I think that the
number of them on the road is wonderful. You never have to wait more than
thirty seconds before one comes along, so much better than the one hour
wait between busses in suburban England. I know I am a foreigner here, but
does the bus cooperative know why it is so difficult for us “farangs”
to use their bus system? I don’t have this problem with public transport
in the Philippines or Hong Kong, as the drivers can speak English, or can
understand enough of it to get by. I have noticed that you are always
telling us ‘foreign devils’ to learn Thai as we live in Thailand, but
when the city is trying to attract tourists from the West, surely they
want the tourists to get around and see something of the place? You
can’t expect tourists to learn Thai on the plane coming over, can you?
Surely, if this city wants to be thought of as a tourist destination, then
some training for the drivers in basic English would have to improve the
situation. The busses should have the route or destination written in
English, just as they do in other countries (even the Jeepneys in Manila
have destination signs). Or am I expecting too much?
Dear Bus Traveler,
I do feel for you, I really do. You are not the first to complain about
the (non-existent) public transportation system in our city. And I agree
that we cannot expect tourists to be able to speak Thai (though I am sure
I didn’t call you ‘foreign devils’, did I?). A destination sign in
English is certainly a step in the right direction in making the song
taews more ‘user friendly’ for the tourists, and I will bring this to
the attention of the mayor. As far as getting the drivers to become fluent
in English, that is another story altogether. With the low wages they get,
they certainly would not be able to pay for lessons. Would city hall
provide some lessons? Perhaps, but will the drivers be prepared for the
down-time? The problem goes much further than the public busses, me Petal,
but is a mirror of the poor command of English in the Thai nation as a
whole. When our young students leave school with a reasonable standard of
English, then we will have new young workers in all levels of employment
who will have enough English to be able to converse with tourists.
As far as your problem is concerned, keep up the Thai lessons, and ask
your teacher to teach you song taew specific phrases, and don’t lend
money to bar girls!
Camera Class: Three legs are better than two
by Harry Flashman
One of the hallmarks of a serious photographer is a good
sturdy tripod. This three legged device will open up completely new avenues in
photography and let you produce new and different images that are otherwise way
beyond your reach.
need a tripod for night shots.
Having said all that, one of the hallmarks of the rankest
amateur photographer can also be a tripod. One of those light flimsy devices
that are designed to fall over with the first mild breeze. I am all for tripods,
but get a decent one.
So what can you do with a tripod that you can’t do without?
The first and most obvious is time exposure shots. The whole secret of time
exposure is to keep the camera still, and you won’t do that by holding your
breath, leaning against a tree and gripping the camera tightly, let me assure
Twilight photography and night photography opens up a whole
new range of pictures and effects. Just the simple expedient of being able to
keep the camera steady while you shoot 30 second or longer exposures will result
in some great photographs. Try taking a shot just after sunset, for example. Set
the camera on f11 and give it 30 seconds. You will be very pleased with the
Did you know that the very best landscapes during daylight
hours are also best taken on a tripod? To get the huge range of depth of field
necessary for these shots, you will end up with slow shutter speeds. The tripod
ensures there’s no blurring. Those flowing milky, misty waterfalls are also
best taken with a tripod, as again a slow shutter speed is required to capture
Even nature shots are done best with this piece of equipment.
You can set up the camera and then leave it, so that the birds etc can get used
to its presence, and then with a cable or remote shutter release you can get the
nature photos of a lifetime.
Another type of shot that needs a tripod is the panorama. A
compilation of images which when placed together form a wide angle view of any
scene. This can only be done with the use of a tripod.
Even when shooting still life images, the use of a tripod
makes these shots a breeze. You can set up the shot and then make minute
adjustments while looking through the viewfinder. Again you can use a slow
shutter speed to be able to use very small apertures (around f22) to get the
very fine detail into the shot.
So what should you look for and what should you spend? There
are several items in the specifications that you should ensure is on any tripod
you buy. The first is that it is heavy with strong legs when extended fully. The
“locks” on the legs must also be secure. Another item is that the actual
swivel head incorporates a spirit level, so that you can ensure the top swivels
in a true horizontal arc. The tripod head should also have calibrations, so you
can swing it a definite number of degrees. A removable “shoe” is also a good
item, as you can then position the camera on the tripod, but also remove the
camera to take other shots but then replace it in exactly the same position. The
legs should be able to be spread out widely so that you can get the camera very
close to the ground, and finally if you can get one, see if the tripod shaft can
be removed and turned upside down, as this can get your camera completely at
ground level and immediately above an object placed on the ground.
How much will this cost? Expect to spend a minimum of 6000 baht. My own
Manfrotto cost a lot more than that, let me assure you, but with now almost 20
years of faithful service, it has been a bargain!
Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums
by Dr Byte, Citec Asia
I wonder how many passwords you have to remember. E-mail
account(s), Online Banking, ATM Cards and the host of other things that need a
In Sweden, access to an online bank account is as simple as
opening a Web browser, typing in your Swedish national ID number along with a
four-digit password. For additional security, the bank has provided a scratchie
card with 50 scratch-off codes. The bank automatically sends a new card as the
old one runs out. As more Web sites demand passwords, scammers are getting more
clever about stealing them. Hence the need for such “passwords-plus”
systems. Interesting, but I have to admit I don’t want to end up with a pocket
full of scratchie cards to cover every situation where I need to log on
The human mind-set is not used to dealing with so many
different passwords and so many different PINs.
When a static password alone is required, security experts
recommend that users combine letters and numbers and avoid easy-to-guess
passwords like “1234” or a nickname or even a birth date. Jill follows those
rules but commits a different faux pas: she uses the same password everywhere,
including access to multiple e-mail accounts, Amazon.com, The Bangkok Post’
Web site and so on. In such cases, if the hacker or scammers compromise one
account, they potentially have one’s entire online life.
It is difficult to remember dozens of strong passwords - so
many sites now require them. Alternatives include writing them down on a sticky
note attached to a monitor or in an electronic spreadsheet - practices security
experts say are unsafe.
Software such as Symantec Corp’s Norton Password Manager
and Apple Computer Inc’s Keychain help store passwords in secure, encrypted
form. But if you compromise the master password, you’re out of luck. Your
entire collection is gone. Also many sites will e-mail passwords insecurely -
without encryption - if you forget. A site called BugMeNot.com even encourages
users to share passwords for non-financial sites like newspapers.
What is your experience? Do you use a password manager to
store your passwords, or do you use your car registration number or family
birthdays? Write in and share your system? (No not the password, just the system
and why you think its a good one.)
Reader Khun Suphot from Mae Rim asks:
I recently bought a notebook with a DVD/CD combo drive, but
it does not have a floppy drive. I’d like to install a piece of software that
is not available on DVD/CD but only on floppy. I tried to connect a desktop
computer and my notebook, using the Ethernet ports, but without success. Can you
explain how to do it?
A: Using a network computer should work. You need to
share the floppy drive on the desktop and then assign a drive letter to the
shared floppy, for example F: for floppy, and install software from that network
drive. To share a drive on the network computer, use Windows Explorer and
right-click on the floppy and select Sharing, then click on Share As and take
the default of A:. Then, on the notebook, open Windows Explorer and click on
Tools, Map Network Drive and select Browse. Locate the share name A: on the
desktop computer, assign F: and now you have a new drive F: from which you can
install the programs.
Khun Bob from Suthep asks:
Whenever I’m surfing the web pages in eBay I get the
following error message each time I open a new page or refresh: “A Runtime
Error has occurred. Do you wish to Debug?” What does this mean?
A: It’s an Internet Explorer message meant for the web
page programmer and the option to receive such warnings is usually switched off
by default, as it is of little use to anyone else. To stop seeing these
messages, open Internet Explorer and go to the Tools menu, then click on
Internet Options and look for the Advanced tab. Scroll down and tick the box
marked “Disable script debugging”. Next, untick the box “Display a
notification about every script error”. While you are here, move down the list
to “Enable third-party browser extensions” and untick that box as well.
Errors like these can be a symptom of a browser hijacker, spyware or other
malicious program attempting to function on your system. So now is a good time
to check for spyware and make sure your firewall and antivirus are up-to-date.
These messages can also indicate a problem with a DLL file, covered in Microsoft
support article 306831.
Next time, we will be exploring the world of sharing files on
the internet (peer to peer) in more detail and watch out for some killer
applications to help you. Dr Byte appears in Chiangmai Mail every 2 weeks
and if you have any questions or suggestions you would like to make, you can
contact me at Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.
Beer and More: Enjoy your beer – drink
moderately Part 2
The last part of the saga
by Karl Eichhorn,
Chiangmai Malting product manager
Of all alcoholic beverages, beer is - according to its low
alcohol content – the least dangerous one. Of course, we speak of a moderate
drinking habit. It is however somehow difficult to define “moderate”.
As already mentioned, we consider the amount of 20-40 gm
alcohol per day as moderate. This represents 0.5 – 1.0 liters of beer a day.
who made this beer excursion possible were, from left to right: Karl Eichhorn,
Saroj Ratanavadi, Chiangmai Malting, Dr. Rudi and secretary Adchara.
In this connection it is very important to take the body
weight of the drinker into consideration, to say nothing of his well-being.
It is obvious that as far as the quantity is concerned, one
can drink more beer than wine or any of the many hard drinks. From the medical
aspect, a person intoxicated by 2.5 mg percent is categorized as uncontrollably
drunk. To reach this amount, a person weighing 70 kg would have to drink twelve
0.3 liter glasses of beer, a quantity quite challenging.
It has also to be noted, the kind of alcohol in beer is
superior to the one found in wine, champagne and spirits with regard to its
restoration and degradation. Due to its large amount of water, the high content
of extracts and the buffering capacity of beer, the absorption of alcohol is
delayed and its passage from the stomach to the intestines and finally into the
blood stream is diminished. The result is the effect of the alcohol on the body
functions is considerably weakened and the crisis point is lowered. It is
therefore wrong to generally malign alcohol. It is its misuse which has to be
The warning to avoid excessive consumption of alcoholic
beverages is as old as the beverages themselves. It is found in Egyptian
hieroglyphics of 1500 B.C. with the advice: “Don’t make yourself helpless by
too much drinking in the tavern, so that your speech is not full of repetitions
and the words spring from your mouth, but you are not aware of what you are
uttering. You collapse, you break your bones and none of your bed fellows gives
you a hand and helps you, but may say: Out with the drunkard!”
Ovid, the Roman poet (43 B.C. – A.D.17) had this to say,
“For your drinking I will give you a measure - your feet as well as your
conscience should never stop to serve you.”
Much work is still to be done by researchers to prove beyond
doubt, that beer is by no means the initial stimulus for alcoholism. In this
respect also the media have to face their responsibility. It is useless, as a
German Professor said, to give young people a finger, since any strictly
pronounced dogma on drinking leads directly to its misuse.
It has to be emphasized that in certain situations in life
and during work even moderate drinking is out of question. Here we think about
pregnant and nursing women and people who are under a certain medication, all
children and youngsters, persons addicted to alcohol and those, of course, at
the steering wheel of a car.
At the end of our excursion into the history of beer and the
scientific background of how beer can help us keep healthy, I have a wish - Let
all those, who love beer and do not hide to say so, spread the message to the
notorious drinkers of water who, apparently, do not know any better.
Convinced lovers of beer enjoy every glass. To join friends
and to drink a good beer with them is like manna for the soul. There is hardly
any other beverage in the world of which so much is talked about, especially if
it is a free one offered and paid by others.
(Editor’s Note: It is also well known that the best beer in the world –
is the next one!)
Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner:
Teaching Sambee to quit
Don’t you start either!
Now there was one human habit that Mrs. DoLittle did not
have to teach Sambee - and that was smoking. She had already learnt that from
her former keeper. What I had to teach her was to give it up!
she saw someone smoking, she’d ask for a cigarette. Because people were
amused, they’d give it to her. Of course, when Mrs. DoLittle arrived on the
scene, smoking by the staff was banned around her.
But it was not possible to control the visitors. Since I
could not spend all day with her, I’d often find a situation were someone had
already given her a cigarette. As soon as she saw me, she’d look at me
defiantly, take one last drag, inhaling, and then slowly blowing the smoke out.
Then to everyone’s surprise, she’d throw the cigarette on the ground and
beat it out with a stick. She’d then give me a big grin. Heh! This became a
big joke and more people would give her smokes just to see her do it. Of course
when Mrs. DoLittle wasn’t around, she’d smoke the whole cigarette, but only
one. She wasn’t a chain smoker!
smoking and worse, she is inhaling…
One day, I thought I’d better teach her, and the people, a
lesson. After all, smoking isn’t funny. It’s deadly! She needed to stop
smoking, once and for all. One day when we were surrounded by visitors, someone
lit a cigarette. I asked if they wanted to see what an orangutan thought about
smoking. To Sambee’s surprise I got the cigarette and gave it to her. Huh!
She hesitantly took the first drag, waiting for me to protest. When I said
nothing, she looked at me oddly and kept smoking. Nearly finished I gave her
another one. She dropped the butt and took the second one. Before she was
finished I gave her another one. She reluctantly took one drag, then threw it
on the ground. I gave her another one. She threw it straight on the ground.
Then she got a stick and beat all the cigarettes. Someone offered her another
one. She looked at it, then at the ground. The guy threw it on the ground. She
beat it to pieces. Heh! Everyone laughed and applauded. Heh heh! Big grin! This
is more fun than smoking!
The caretaker told me after I left many more people gave her
cigarettes and she beat them all to pulp (the cigarettes, that is!). A few days
later I tried to give her a smoke and she spat on it. If only humans could
learn that quickly!
One day she crept up behind a smoking man, and snatched the
cigarette out of his hand. To his astonishment, she beat it out and applauded.
The bewildered man said we should use her in an anti-smoking campaign.
So there you have it folks! You can learn something from a hairy ape.
Smoking is a yucky human habit. Give it up!
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