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The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Life in the Laugh Lane

The Doctor's Consultation: Grief, loss and psychological trauma

by Dr. Iain Corness

We have all experienced some psychological trauma, loss or grief. Just as death is the end result of living, we will meet many traumatic experiences in our lives. Every day we hear about atrocities, suicide bombings, genocide, innocent children caught up in sectarian violence - it all seems endless. And we watch graphic TV footage of people left to grieve.

However, this is not a new phenomenon. Mankind has been inflicting psychological trauma on itself for countless thousands of years. A brief perusal of world history will soon reveal the war-like nature of mankind and the countless millions who have perished in these conflicts. And all those who died left mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, family and friends to grieve over their losses. The only difference between today’s horrors and the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades or World Wars I and II is the fact that the grief was not shown all over the world via the electronic media.

Grief is the outcome of loss, but that loss does not need to be just from unexpected trauma. Grief from loss can also be experienced by children of divorcing parents, adults whose elderly parents have died or parents whose children have died after long illnesses. Even losing a job or a girlfriend/boyfriend can produce the emotion we call grief.

The ways we handle grief are almost as many as the causes of grief, but drug and alcohol abuse and suicide threats rank highly as manifestations of poor adaptation to a new situation that is causing the loss and grief.

Since grief is an emotion we all have had, in one way or another, it is one of life’s ‘normal’ emotional states. The usual expressions of ‘normal’ grief includes tears, poor sleep and a decreased appetite. The stages of grieving include a numbness that lasts between a few hours to several days, followed by ‘pining’ where the person swings between separation distress and anxiety.

These are then followed by a period of disorganization and despair, where the memory of the event or person is in the forefront of consciousness. This results in the continuing personal questioning of “What if...?” and “Why?” The grieving person feels that the person being grieved over is still around and they will ‘see’ the person while out in public. Finally there is a phase of reorganization and integration of the loss into the ‘normal’ thoughts of the individual.

While these phases can take varying times, there will be set-backs, such as birthdays and anniversaries like Xmas and New Year, to push the person back into the grieving process. However, this is all very normal.

Grief, like many of our emotions, only becomes ‘abnormal’ when it results in a long period of lack of coping with the situation that has produced the grief. It is normal for a mother to grieve for a lost child, but abnormal for that person to be unable to consider having further off-spring, because of that one disaster. It is normal for a teenager to feel that they will never love again after a broken romance. It is only abnormal when they do not allow themselves to become involved again.

To allow the grief cycle to go forwards, sometimes it is necessary for counselling, but for most people just having supportive, non-judgmental family and friends is one of the most important factors.

Learning to let go of the past is important too. Constantly going over the past robs you of the present and stops your progress into the future.

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I lent a lady over 2 million baht and we are now married (3 years). Do I want it back? Of course not, otherwise we would have to sell the house, pickup, 6 dogs, 5 cows, 1 pig, and chickens of course, and 9 rai of land. As you may realize, I’m not talking about Pattaya - so inform your readers that there are many lovely places and ladies in the northeast where I live.
Ken (ex-Pattaya resident)

Dear ex-Pattaya resident Ken,
Thank you for the wonderful vote of confidence in the north-eastern ladies, Petal. It is always pleasant to hear of an ex-pat who is not complaining. There is only one thing that worries me slightly with your idyllic situation that you outlined in your letter - you mention “house, pickup, 6 dogs, 5 cows, 1 pig, and chickens and 9 rai of land”, but where is the buffalo? For two million you should have been able to get a buffalo plus 12 months veterinary maintenance thrown in free after that sort of big spend! Enjoy Isaan, Ken. You sound like a very nice chap, and when you want to lend another two million to a lady, Hillary is always waiting! I do have another slight worry, Ken. It has been reported to me that 99 percent of the ladies in Pattaya came from Isaan. How do the Pattaya lads find one like yours that is still left up there?
Dear Hillary,
Like “Young & Handsome” (October 16), I too see some “ugly” expats here, but I am not referring to their looks. I became a regular visitor to Chiang Mai since 2001 after I met someone special here. Coming here monthly for a week or two, I do drive around. Besides the terrible driving manners of the locals, there are a number of ‘farangs’ who are equally guilty. Many a time I come across these expats who walk in the middle of a road or lane with no regards to the on-coming cars or the cars behind them, and taking their time; or crossing a road with their Thai lover in tow while engaging in a fight or conversation, not bothering about the traffic; riding their bikes at snail speed and making turns or overtaking without giving proper signals. Do they behave like this back in their own cities where there are laws or they simply behave like this because they think they are the superior group of people in this Asian city? Please don’t advise me to ‘run’ them down as I would like to, if it’s legal.

Dear John,
I honestly think these people did behave like this in their own cities. Do you notice that many of them possess a limp (one that Vitamin V does not fix) or a short leg, or similar results of pedestrian accidents in their own countries, where people travel too fast to miss them. After they recover, they get a lump sum (should that be ‘limp’ sum, I wonder) payout and they come here to eke out their remaining days. I don’t believe the day-dreaming is solely the province of the farangs either, as many, many Thais are just as hopeless on the road (on foot, on a bike or in a car). Don’t run them down, it gets very messy, and the nice policeman won’t like you anymore and your visa to come here could be cancelled, and you wouldn’t want that, would you Petal?
Dear Hillary,
Sandy and Jules of ‘Bona Trips’ have suggested that I troll along and make a full-frontal approach with your chocs and bubbly. Only one problem, where’s Soi Hillary?

Dear Mistersingha,
There is a Hillary Bar in Bangkok (no relationship to me I assure you), but I do not know of a Soi Hillary either, though perhaps I should check the signpost at the end of my street. However, I am perfectly aware that even if I laid on limousine transport to my front door, your full-frontal approach would be full of the usual wee and wind that you have been guilty of for more than two years now. Why don’t you share the choccies and champers with Sandy and Jules, my reneging little Petal? You and I both know that you do not deliver on your promises.
Dear Hillary,
I parked my car in the main street and when I came back I found a motorcycle had fallen over and was leaning on my car, scratching the back of it. I waited to see if the owner would come up, but after half an hour I left. I took the number plate of the motorcycle. Do you think I could get any compensation for this, or should I just pay it myself and forget it? The painting shop said they thought it would cost maybe 2000 baht. What do you think?

Dear Scratchy,
Oh dear, my Petal, you must be new round here. You do not have a snowball’s hope in hell of doing anything right now. My simple answer is to pay your paint shop and chalk it down to experience. You will be rewarded in the next life. If you are very lucky. In the meantime it’s 2,000 baht. And give the motorcycle rider his number plate back!

Camera Class: New or second-hand?

by Harry Flashman

When looking for a new camera, should you take the risk and get a second hand one? I always say to go for second hand. My Scottish heritage comes to the fore when buying anything, so if you can save 50 percent of the price of a new one, and get the same performance, it’s a no-brainer as far as I am concerned. However, there are a few items to consider before plunging into your wallet and forking out for a camera.

In my professional photographer days, I have bought many expensive cameras, including Hasselblads, Nikons, Canons and Cambos. The ‘Blads alone were worth several hundreds of thousands of baht (one lens alone was worth over 30,000 baht), but all of them were second hand! A few years back I also had to buy some cameras here (after a robbery - are yours insured?) and they too were second hand. I follow my own advice!

Like buying anything, the first problem is not ascertaining the condition, it is just making sure that you do not need asbestos gloves to handle the merchandise. In other words, make sure it isn’t “hot”. (In particular, one of my stolen cameras!)

If you are buying from a recognised camera shop then you are probably OK, but from Shady Sam’s it is ‘caveat emptor’ - let the buyer beware. If you are buying from a private owner, then look for some proof of ownership - a receipt from their initial purchase, or at worst, some insurance documentation. Most robbers don’t bother insuring the loot!

Now let’s go through what you have to do to make sure you have bought a good one - and we’ll deal with the camera body first. Just like looking at a second hand car, how many bumps and scrapes are there on the case? Turn it over and look at the top, front, back, sides and bottom. Look particularly for small dents in the case. With good cameras you have to use a lot of force to actually dent the casing, so it probably means the camera has been dropped. You do not want a dropped camera - they are more trouble than they are worth, no matter how cheaply it is being offered.

Note “wear” marks on the edges. Nice smooth wear areas generally means the camera spent most of its life in a camera case. In other words, it has had half a chance of being looked after properly. Also look at the swivels for the camera strap. Excessive wear here also shows a camera that has been well used.

Now open up the camera back and look inside. Wear marks on the pressure plate on the cover means that it has had lots of film put through it. This is not such a bad thing, but remember that everything will wear out eventually. Look particularly at the shutter. Titanium shutters as used in Nikons are very fragile (and expensive) and should be completely flat. Look for corrosion around the light seal edges of the camera back and the grooves it fits into on the body. This may be a sign of water damage. Look into the body at the front and make sure the mirror is clean and works properly when the shutter is depressed.

Next look at the lens, dismounted from the camera. Check the bayonet or screw fitting and hold the lens up to the light. Look for “spider web” traces on the glass elements which may mean fungus. This does not mean the lens is ruined - it just means it will need service soon. Now look through the lens while closing the aperture down and make sure it closes OK.

You have only one more check to do. Run a roll of film through and check all the shutter speeds, apertures and functions. With a private seller or photo-shop, run a check film through before money actually changes hands. It is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate request. With a camera shop, you should also get a guarantee. Buy carefully and laugh all the way to the bank.

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

Last month I outlined and reviewed what Internet connections are available for those of us living in Thailand. There has been a lot of interest in the series of articles, and I promise I will provide an update in the next month’s columns. This month, however, I want to deal with some of the many questions you have been asking and I also want to have a look at the ways in which the Internet has changed our lives and as always, your comments and thoughts are appreciated.

A prediction made in 1954.

An awful lot of people, spend an awful lot of time trying to figure out how the online revolution will change our lives next month, next year or next decade. I think we sometimes forget just how far we have already come. It’s true the internet as we now know it is only about 10 years old but, in that time, in the developed world at least, it has made enormous changes to our lives at a practical level - and there’s no going back.

Many people have contributed to this list and I thank you all for your contributions.

1. Everybody can find out information ... If you learn how to look for it. You can Google the most obscure bits of information to your desktop within seconds.

2. Everyone can get breaking news … Try or for starters. You can also read daily newspapers from just about any part of the globe online. Try The Paperboy for a list of papers from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Don’t forget you can read the Bangkok Post, The Nation, Chiangmai Mail all online.

3. Everyone can be an expert … While a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, one of the delights of the internet is to be able to put together well informed content on everything from how to cook your omelette to how to build a simple web site. For example I learned that vegemite (yes my favourite spread) is also great for sick fir trees and I can confirm it works.

4. No one need ever get lost …. Sites such as Whereis have revolutionised car travel for direction-challenged folk in the developed world. Typing in a few details will instantly return a door-to-door list of instructions complete with map. Brilliant for those of us returning home after many years in the tropics. Shame we can’t do the same in Chiang Mai when looking for Soi 45 and Moo 2.

5. Cheap, near-instant communication … To those who have grown up in the era of the “@” symbol, it’s easy to take electronic mail for granted. But the ability to flash messages around the globe with documents, images or applications attached is revolutionary.\

6. The bank on your desktop … Plenty of businesses have tried to harness the internet’s power to make their services cheaper and easier to use, but it is internet banking where the effect has been astounding. We expect to transfer funds between accounts and to third parties, pay bills and print statements from the home or office without going anywhere near a branch. You may miss the manager’s smile, but that’s about it - if you’re not already banking online, you should be.

7. Everyone can be a publisher … Now everyone can publish their thoughts online for next to nothing through personal websites or, more likely these days, by joining the blogging phenomenon. Try Blogger or Geeklog for a taste of Blog power or even to set up your own. How you make people read your blog is a different question!

8. The world market comes to your desktop … The internet has turned the connected world into one huge marketplace. eBay changed the world but there are many others - Google lists 341 separate auction sites. Whatever you want to sell or buy, online auction sites have evolved into an incredibly efficient marketplace.

9. Music … Driven initially by the controversial Napster and other peer-to-peer systems, the internet has revolutionized the distribution of music. Taking up the running now is Apple’s iTunes, which sold more than 70 million songs in its first year. The ability to grab tunes you want, then sort, store and play them however you want will probably spell the end of the album format.

10. No one is anonymous any more … Try a search on your best friends’ names in Google and chances are they will be somewhere on the internet, especially if they are under 30. While you’re at it, try a search on your own name - you may be surprised how far your electronic tracks extend. From websites to chatrooms, most internet users leave a trail.

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.

Life in the Laugh Lane: You are what you eat

by Scott Jones

“You are what you eat” is a classic, health food phrase in America to dissuade you from eating dead animals, artificial whatevers and noxious preservatives that will kill you quicker but make your body last longer in the grave. (Hearing “Fruit! You are nuts!” may not be easy to stomach, either.)

In Asia, the saying goes, “We eat anything with four legs except a table and anything that flies except an airplane.” (Careful. If you complain about cockroaches in your salad, you may be charged extra.) I don’t know whether this sign should have read “taste” (see photo), but possibly the spelling is correct and I’m not going to let them use mine.

I eat birds, fish and most fruits or vegetables if they look vaguely like they’re from this planet. I don’t eat anything with more than two feet, unless I’m being polite during a social adventure in the hinterlands and then I’d just rather not know what I’m trying to chew. Insects have way too many legs, soft centers and crusty parts. I’ll let them bite me. I’m not going to bite them.

Half the fun of eating out is reading about half the stuff you don’t order. You never know if the spelling is wrong and the food is right or the spelling is right and the food is wrong. The names below have not been changed to protect the innocent.

Grilled pig neck

I haven’t voluntarily eaten pig in decades and I’m not going to start with the neck. In America, they also eat every molecule of the pig: feet, jowls, intestines, fried cracklings (basically fat fried in fat). I squeamishly remember a plastic bag at a 7-Eleven store containing “Pickled Pig Lips.” When I see Porky knee deep in his poop, you won’t hear me saying, “Mmm, I’d love to nibble on those toes, but honey, look at them lips!”

Hot and sour bladder salad

“Hot” or “salad” sounds palatable; “sour” and “bladder” do not, especially when used together. And we must ask, “Whose bladder?” and “Why?”

Hot and Sour Puffed Up Catfish

At this restaurant, hot and sour sauce is used to mask the other sinister flavors. Puffed up? Naturally bloated from rotting on the shore?

Fried Friend or Shrimp Ball

Fry your friend or mine? I didn’t even know shrimp had balls.

Friend Been Sport

This is probably safe. Fried Bean Sprout. Singular. You only get one.

Hot and Sour Psophocarpus or Tetrogonclopus

I have no idea what these are. Meat items from a million years ago? They weren’t big sellers back then but they’ve passed the originals down for generations.

You decide what your tongue touches. I think I’ll have a pineapple. From a can.