Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dogs - Man’s best friend

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness:  Saturday Walks

More than just exercise

With first two Saturday walks now “under it’s belt” (around the old city’s moat, along the Ping River) those in the new Weekly Saturday Walking Group seem to be exercising their vocal chords - as much as their legs!

These first groups have been smallish in size (seven to eight) but large in enthusiasm and energy. It’s been fun to compare notes and lives with others sharing a similar basic interest.

A mix of both local expats and transient travelers (five plus three) in the more recent walk suggested a seeding of the goal of founder Joe Sanders to create a core group of ex-pat residents for week-to-week continuity, with the inclusion of more short time travelers for fresh faces and continuing vitality in conversation.

Joe has felt some concern that initial publicity about this new group may have over-emphasized pre-requisites about fitness or suggested a militancy in walking pace, which would not be accurate. He emphasizes that the goal is to have a good time, not work up into a sweat! While it is true that these are not “stop-and-explain” guided tourist walks at a slow ambling gait, a person’s ability to simply walk for two plus hours at a steady pace is the only suggested recommendation. “It’s more about working towards fitness, than having fitness as a rigid prerequisite,” said Joe.

In keeping with that old axiom, “What you work off, you put back on,” those at the end of the first two walks migrated over to Art’s caf้ to revel in some self indulgence with frozen shakes, ice cream, and yes, more tongue-wagging.

Joe says that while these walks will generally originate from Thapae gate for ease and stability in orientation, his goal (from a background as a wilderness hiker in USA) is to get off the streets, away from the car fumes, and into green areas as much as possible.

To see if these walks are your “cup of tea,” come on down and try one out! There is no charge for these walks. Bring small change for any transport or refreshments. Complete schedule for December walks from: joesurf [email protected]

Meet at Thapae gate, 8:30 a.m., bring water, sun block, consider umbrella for sun protection. Duration around 2.5 hours to 4 hours (including refreshment break). “Look for the man with the red umbrella.”


The Doctor's Consultation: Gout diets. What’s out, what’s in?

by Dr. Iain Corness

Gout is purely the name of a condition, referring to a recurrent form of arthritis, and which generally affects just one joint - most commonly the joint in the big toe. This arthritis, or inflammation, occurs in association with high uric acid levels in the blood.

It is a condition that is still being researched, and there is still no complete agreement on the preventive treatment for this condition.

The higher the concentration of serum uric acid (SUA), the more likely you are to get an acute attack. The ‘normal’ range for SUA is taken as less than 0.42 mmol/L (called ‘milli moles’ per litre), but if your concentration is 0.54 mmol/L then you are five times more likely to get gout.

Basically what happens is that with high concentrations of uric acid it crystallizes out into the joint, leaving very sharp, needle-like crystals crunching inside the articular surface of the joint. Very painful!

The typical gout sufferer is male in his 50’s, overweight, high blood pressure, carnivorous and consumes large quantities of alcohol. Is that you?

Gout affects almost four million men in the USA. It has long been thought that purine-rich foods and a high protein intake are risk factors, and sufferers are advised to avoid meats, seafood, purine-rich vegetables, and animal protein. But this advice was based more on the theory of how excess blood uric acid can occur, rather than actual clinical studies.

One of the newer studies began on over 50,000 men from health professions in 1986. Food-frequency questionnaires were sent out at baseline, and in 1990 and 1994. Weight, medications, and medical conditions were recorded every two years.

The participants were assigned to groups according to the total intake of meat, their consumption of seafood, purine-rich vegetables, dairy products, low-fat dairy products, total protein, and animal protein.

During the study, there were 730 new cases of gout during the 12 years of follow-up. Most of them were aged 55 to 64.

When total meat consumption was analyzed, the risk of acquiring gout was 1.41 times greater in the high meat eaters; in other words, eating more meat was a risk factor for gout. Similarly, high seafood eaters were 1.51 times as likely to develop gout.

In contrast, gout was less common in those taking more dairy products. Men who drank two glasses a day of skim milk, or ate a serving of low-fat yogurt more than twice a week, halved their risk of developing gout.

In this study at least, purine-rich vegetables and total protein had no influence on the chances of getting gout.

This large study confirmed that a diet high in meat and seafood increases the likelihood that a susceptible person will develop gout. It also showed that milk proteins increase the excretion or uric acid in the urine.

So, to avoid developing gout, try to limit your intake of meat (beef, pork, lamb, and offal) and seafood, while increasing your intake of low-fat dairy produce (skim milk, yogurt).

This is all very important, as the long term outlook is not good for the unrepentant gout sufferer. Constant high levels can lead to uric acid ‘stones’ being deposited in the kidneys (producing renal problems) and even discharging lumps (called ‘Tophi’) around joints, on the forearms and even on the outer ears. Really a most bleak and depressing future, and not one I’d like to have.

Note too, that it is low-fat milk that is being proposed, as high fat milk introduces the cholesterol problems again! It really is a fine line that we must all tread!


Agony Column

Hey Hillary,
My name’s Stuart, I’m making a documentary with my girlfriend about British ex-pats who emigrate to Thailand in seek of a new lease of life and new prospects in love. The problem is I have a Serious lack of Western female perspective. I thought you might be interested in helping out and relating a little wisdom? I’ve read through most of your articles and you know your stuff about cultural relations and the problems associated with setting into a foreign environment. It would be great to take up a half hour or so of your time, if you’d be willing.
I will be in your area this weekend if you’re around or I could make a trip from Bangkok at a later date if that would be more convenient. Anyhow, let me know your thoughts. Chocs a definite possibility!
Stu
PS: Motherly use of the word ‘Petal’ all the time. Hillarious. Your (sic) not a scouser are you? My ma calls me that all the time.
Stu
!
Dear Stu,
You are a young lad, aren’t you. Did you honestly think that “Chocs a definite possibility” would be enough to get Hillary out of her armchair? Only a “possibility”? Stu, my Petal, I would need more than that. Now a real gentleman (though they tell me they are very rare in Scouserland) would have attached the request to the chocolates. A ploy much more likely to engender a beatific gaze over your needs. In fact, there was a famous chap who used to send in his “Nil” tax return to the antipodean tax collectors attached to a bottle of champers each year. In appreciation of his magnanimous gestures, after a few years of these, they investigated him and jailed him for tax offences. Tax people are like that. Regarding the use of Petal, my Petal, it is an appellation used all over the world, not just by your long-suffering mother, and in fact I picked it up from a New Zealander, if the truth be known.
If you really want some western female perspectives you should contact the Chiang Mai Ladies Lunch Bunch, a group crammed full of western ladies, who would no doubt like to assist, particularly if you were to donate something (not my choccies) to one of their favorite charities. Best of luck, young Stu.
Dear Hillary,
My wife always forgets when her visa runs out and it always ends up with me paying for overstays. I even said I would handle it if she wanted, so that this did not happen all the time, but she asserts her independence all the time and calls it interfering if I say I’ll take charge of it. This has happened more than just a couple of times too.
Visa Valerye

Dear Visa Valery,
You have come to the right person as yours is an easy problem to fix (permanently). Your wife wants independence above all else, so give it to her. Let her overstay and let her pay for the overstays at the 200 baht a day going rate. With any luck it will cost so much they won’t let her back in and all your future woes are fixed at the same time.
Dear Hillary,
My boyfriend (who comes from London like me) generally has a few drinks with the lads after work. The other day he came home very late and very drunk. He said the bar they use as their local bought him a birthday cake the other day, and the girls all made a big fuss of him. Is this the usual thing around here, or have I got something to worry about? I have no real reason to suspect him as it only happened the once, it’s more that I think I need reassurance.
Worried GF

Dear Worried GF,
You have nothing at all to worry about, unless he starts having birthdays every week. The girls in the bar are happy to celebrate anybody’s birthday, especially if they get a drink and a slice of cake too. That is the way things are done round here, so stop worrying immediately. What you should do next year is arrange the party in the bar yourself, then you get some cake and drinkies as well.
Dear Hillary,
I’m from America and I am not used to going into a bar to be propositioned. I don’t want to have someone ask me where I come from. It is my business only if I am married. I don’t want people to know how much money I make. How many children I have is my affair. Why doesn’t someone tell these girls in the bars that not everyone wants to tell them personal details? All I want is a quiet beer!
Charlie

Dear Charlie,
What are you worried about? These girls aren’t from the CIA or the IRS, they are just doing their job as well as they can and you’re lucky they can converse as much as they can. If you don’t want the girls to talk to you then don’t drink in beer bars. You can buy a bottle of beer and sit alone in your room or drink in more up-market watering holes!


Camera Class: Professional lighting for good portraits

by Harry Flashman

Portrait photography is one of the most lucrative areas of photography in the world. Photographers love taking photographs of people. People love great portraits of themselves. A great portrait is then satisfying for both the photographer and the sitter, so this week let’s look at a few studio style tricks we might be able to adapt for the weekend photographer who does not have banks of studio lights and other such paraphernalia of the pro photographer.

To start with, let’s get some of the techo bits out of the way. You should choose a lens of around 100 mm focal length (135 mm is my preferred “portrait” lens) or set your zoom to around that focal length. If you are using a wide angle lens (anything numerically less than 50 mm), no matter what you do, the end result will be disappointing. That is of course unless you like making people look distorted with big noses!

The second important technical bit is to set your lens aperture to around f 5.6. At that aperture you will get the face in focus and the background will gently melt away - provided that you focus on the eyes!

Perhaps a word or two about focus here as it is very important in portraits. I always use a split image focus screen and focus on the lower eyelid. This makes sure that the eyes will be exactly in focus. If you are using Autofocus (AF), then again you should make sure you focus on the eyes and use the ‘focus lock’ so you will not lose it.

Next item is the general pose itself. Please, please, please do not have your subject sitting rigidly directly face on to the camera. This is not a passport/visa run photograph. It is to be a flattering portrait. Sit the subject in a chair some distance away from a neutral background, and turn the chair 45 degrees to the camera. Now when you want to take the shot you get the subject to turn their head slowly towards you and take the shot that way. You can also get a shot with them looking away from you. Nobody said the sitter has to actually look at the camera.

Now let’s get down to the most important part - the lighting. We need to do two things with our lighting. Firstly light the face and secondly light the hair. Now the average weekend photographer does not have studio lights and probably has an on-camera flash to work with. Not to worry, we can get over all this! The answer is a mirror and a large piece of black velvet.

Take the black velvet first. You will need a piece around 2 metres square and the idea is to place the velvet close to one side of the subject, but not actually in the photograph. You get as close as possible and the black will absorb much of the light and allow no reflection of light back onto that side of the subject’s face. Hang the velvet over a clothes drying stand or similar to make life easy for yourself.

Now the mirror. This device will give you the power of having a second light source for no cost! Now since you are firing light into the subject from the top of your camera, you position the mirror at about 30-45 degrees tilted downwards, placed behind and to the side of the subject, pointing basically at the sitters ear. The side you choose is the side opposite the black velvet. Again, you must make sure that the mirror is not in the viewfinder.

What you now have is a primary light source (the on-camera flash), a secondary light source lighting the hair and adding to the light on one side of the face, and a light absorber to give a gradation of light across the subject’s face. Take a look at Nadar’s portrait of Rossini taken many years ago, and you will see that the lighting is as I suggest. And Rossini is not square on to the camera!


Dogs - Man’s best friend: Some basics of canine genetics

Nienke Parma

I remember studying the very basics of genetics years ago at high school; the genes, the chromosomes and meiosis (cell division resulting in mature germ cells with half the normal chromosome number). Very interesting though not easy.

I don’t care about DNA. Just throw the ball and I catch it!

What is a gene? A gene is an information storage medium with an amazing capacity, that tells every cell in the canine’s body what to do and what is done already. Genes are located in chromosomes. Each species has a characteristic chromosome number with dogs having 78.

Genes use four sites or states, usually called A, T, C and G (specific protein molecules or nucleotides), for their individual data-banks, compared with computers that use only two. Each site handles a certain aspect of life such as coat color. When coming in a four-state information technology chain it’s called a polynucleotide.

It is the polynucleotides called DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acids, that pass information on from one generation to the next. Although, the contents at each site will vary, the site itself will be the same in that specific chromosome in every canine cell. The differences between individuals are a result of the intermingling and coupling of these gene sites from both parents and the differences in the concentration or structure of these specific protein molecules.

All genetic diseases are fundamentally due to abnormalities in the DNA. They can be classified according to the type of underlying abnormalities in chromosomal DNA. So, there are disorders resulting from 1) an abnormality in a single pair of genes. Whether the off-spring will be affected, carriers or normal depends on the disease being dominant or recessive and if one or both genes in the pair are abnormal; 2) the cumulative action of a number of different genes. Here it depends on how many ‘good’ and ‘bad’ genes a dog inherits. For example, X-ray examination may show normal or marginal-normal hip dysplasia when the individual has exactly balanced ‘good’ and ‘bad’ genes. However, it’s very likely hip dysplasia-predisposing genes will be transmitted to the off-spring when there is still case of a large number of bad genes; 3) abnormalities in the number of chromosomes, where an extra X chromosome incorporates during the formation of the sperm or egg. The affected individuals will have the physical characteristics of males, but with small testes and are sterile.

A breeder should become alarmed when: 1) a condition occurs more often within groups of related individuals than among other dogs; 2) the condition increases in frequency with inbreeding, such as with congenital heart defects; 3) the disease has a characteristic age of onset and course as if ‘programmed’.

In any case of doubt, prevention is better than a cure (if there is any); or in other words, excluding an affected animal from breeding is best.

To be continued …

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


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

In the last column, I shared some new information about internet connections and we also looked at hands free surfing. In this issue, I want to look at Hotmail’s recent actions for the greater good of the web community plus a couple of questions from readers.

But first, and I do have to ask this: why are you using Hotmail anyway? There are so many better services available (free and paid).

If you believe Microsoft, they recently committed a selfless act by removing one of the main Hotmail features that were claimed to generate large amounts of SPAM. But ... oh dear, why is there always a but!

The story according to Microsoft’s lead product manager is that spammers have been opening free Hotmail accounts, setting up Outlook or Outlook Express and creating scripts that allow them to dispatch 100 unsolicited emails a day from each account. (Tell me something new! I gave up complaining to Hotmail and Yahoo about this 2 years ago).

Microsoft says, “We have seen tens of thousands of Hotmail accounts set up and spamming in this manner”. Outlook and Outlook Express use WebDAV technology to integrate with their Hotmail accounts.

Microsoft’s solution is to limit free Hotmail accounts to the web interface only. On the face of it, reasonable. But hidden away in the fine print you will discover that Microsoft will still offer WebDAV access. In fact, a lot more people are going to want this feature but they’ll have to pay - immediately and it will cost $37.95 (1,573 baht) per year for Hotmail Plus, which includes a permanent account and 2 GB of email space, or $142.95 (5,925 baht) a year for 9MSN Premium, with 10 subsidiary accounts and 25 MB of storage (among other features). Hotmail gets my 1 star for being difficult to access outside the USA, Australia and Europe and for being so selfless.

Microsoft claims the decision is for “the greater good of the Hotmail community”. With potentially millions of users signing up, it’s definitely going to be good for Microsoft’s bottom line. In my view, users should resist paying for Hotmail, if only because it’s far too expensive and more importantly there are many, many better services around. Also, don’t bother with Google’s new service despite the huge amount of free space because Google will be reading your e-mail to associate appropriate adverts and inserted these into your private content.

Now a couple of readers’ questions.

Michael of San Sai asks: I use McAfee Virus Scan and it scans more than 15,000 temporary internet files that it says are on my PC. But when I check these directories, there’s nothing like that number, and even when I clear the files before scanning, it still scans that enormous amount. How do I fix up this anomaly? It takes up so much time!

Answer: There probably are that number of temporary files and generally they are well hidden and stored in hidden folders with odd names. You can verify the number by using Windows Explorer and right-clicking on the Temporary Internet Files folder and select Properties. You may have to set the folder options to show hidden files and folders. To remove these files, open Internet Explorer and click on Tools > Internet Options > Temporary Internet Files > Settings, and change the amount of disk space to use to about 5 or 10 MB. This will prevent them from growing to that large number.

Then, from the Temporary Internet Files section, click on Delete Files. Temporary Internet Files are a cache and are supposed to speed up internet access by retrieving images of sites you visit from your hard drive rather than having to load them from the web. There is a disadvantage of caching web sites and that is sometimes web sites change and you may not be looking at the most recent version of the site. In this case you have to force a refresh of the site by pushing F5 on your keyboard several times.

Sammy of Phra Singh asks: I can’t get audio CDs to play when I put them in the CD drive. I also play a couple of computer games and half way through game, the music will start playing but only the first song and it loops over and over. What should I do?

Answer: Perhaps the problem is related to how your system is handling audio. Some games can be set so you can play audio CDs while playing an online game. To play audio CDs the system is set to digital. A Microsoft troubleshooter suggests, among other steps, that going back to analog can resolve some problems. Try to use analog playback instead of digital: in Windows Media Player on the Tools menu, click Options. Click the devices tab, then select Audio CD and click Properties. In Playback, select Analog.

In the next column, Ill be sharing some more readers’ questions and my answers. 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: Crown, Cow or Clown Car?

by Scott Jones

My friend has a unique car named Elsie. Don’t read any further until you promise me you won’t show him this column, as he’ll either kill me, slowly harass me to death or at least rearrange my face.

A Toyota Crown made just before the Industrial Revolution, she’s gold or brown or rust with impressive labels on her body: “Thunderbird 4.7”, “V34, 1500 hp” and “Andretti” which lose credibility since they’re handwritten with a black Sharpie marker. Her motor bellows loudly like you’d expect from a bovine named Elsie. (This is good since 99 percent of the bikers in Thailand never look before cutting in front of you - from a side street, the next lane, across the median strip or right out of the ditch. When you’re riding Elsie, they hear you coming and imagine a train is barreling down the road.)

She seems held together precariously with electrical tape, super glue and seven or eight bolts, but my friend is a mechanical wizard who can walk into a junk yard, rummage through piles of miscellaneous parts and come out driving a car he’s made from bits of ten others. Though the years have stolen accessories and essentials, he’ll keep her until there are only three parts left: a wheel, seat, one piston. Somehow she’ll still run.

There’s no seat belt, but the adhesive that sometimes holds the upholstery together sometimes holds your seat to her seat. Windshield wipers are vital during the rainy season when the heavens open religiously and regularly, or in explicit terminology from North Carolina that should make Elsie feel right at home, “It rains like a cow pissin’ on a flat rock.” Elsie has one wiper, conveniently placed on the driver’s side that takes an excruciating eight seconds for one up-and-down wipe. (Count ‘em out: one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three...)

Unfortunately the lights have to be off for the wiper to be on. Imagine driving on the flat rock road at night, turning the lights off, sweating through four seconds until the wiper’s in the “up” position, turning the lights on, sweating through random seconds of marginal sight, lights off again, sweating four seconds until the “down” position, etcetera, etcetera, till death do us part.

One night Elsie was heading back to the ranch and flames started licking the inside of the windshield. No problem. Wipers were working, stereo blaring, air-conditioner fanning the flames. Hey, if your interior light doesn’t work, just set fire to the dashboard. Elsie is basically a clown car - the one that enters the circus tent, the doors fall off and 36 people get out. It careens into the next ring, water squirting from the headlights, then explodes and showers the crowd with red rubber noses.

Remember: DO NOT show this to my friend. You promised.