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Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness:  Poll points to growing stress among young people

Young people are becoming increasing stressed by a range of behavioral and lifestyle problems including alcohol abuse, violent arguments and uncontrollable spending, according to a poll published on January 23.

The survey, released at a seminar by Prof. Srisak Jamornman, director of the ABAC Poll Research Institute, shows that 71 percent of the 4,645 respondents interviewed across the country last year reported problems in their daily lives.

Topping the list was alcohol, reported by 32.7 percent, followed by violent arguments, uncontrollable spending, going out to nightspots and sexual relationships. Prof. Srisak noted that such problems had an inevitable impact on mental health and educational results.

The poll also found that 39.3 percent of young people were concerned about their studies, while 32.9 percent were concerned about money and spending, 26.9 percent were concerned about their future, 6.7 percent were concerned about family problems and 5.1 percent were concerned about their relationships with friends. A significant 55.5 percent of those surveyed claimed to be experiencing more than one of these problems.

One in six also reported personal ‘flaws’, whether in terms of family status, physical appearance, knowledge and abilities, or acceptance among friends.

And while 49.6 percent admitted to having a boyfriend or girlfriend, 66 percent of this group reported regular arguments. The average age of first sexual relations was found to be 17.2, but some people reported having their first sexual relationships as young as 10 years old. A high proportion of those questioned - 47.5 percent - said that sexual relationships among young people were not to be condemned.

Interestingly, 45.6 percent admitted to being occasionally so angry with someone that they were unable to control their own emotions, while 32.7 percent said that they were sometimes so desperate to get something that they would do almost anything in order to get it.

Family arguments were also shown to be common, with 37.6 percent of respondents admitting to arguing with their parents, while 32.7 percent said that they had argued with their teachers and 31.5 percent reported arguing with people of the same age.

Worryingly, 8.5 percent said that they had considered suicide due to ennui, loss of hope, confusion, family problems and relationship problems.

Montree Sinthawichai, better known as ‘Khru Yun’, who chairs the Senate committee on women, children and young people, blamed these problems on social changes engineered by adults.

With more places offering vice than places offering constructive opportunities, children had nowhere to turn, he said. Calling for a concerted effort to solve these problems, he said that polls would always emerge with similar findings until adults themselves acknowledged the need to change their thinking. (TNA)


The Doctor's Consultation: Tics and Tourette’s syndrome - what the “F’s” that?

by Dr. Iain Corness

One of my favorite jokes involves a parrot that was prone to ‘bad’ language, and consistently used the “F” word. After threatening the talkative bird with dire consequences, its owner put it in the freezer chest for five minutes. After being retrieved, the parrot was asked if it would now behave. “Yes,” said the shivering parrot, “I won’t say the “F” word again, but what did the effing chicken say?”

Tourette’s syndrome can also be related to the magic “F” word, and is usually seen in children (not parrots) around the age of 5-7 years. Boys outnumber girls three to one!

So is this just a case of little Johnny parroting off (sorry about that, couldn’t help myself) dirty words he has heard at home? Actually no. This is a developmental problem that comes under the general heading of ‘Tics’ (as opposed to ‘ticks’ that are parasitic problems).

Tic disorders can affect up to almost 20 percent of children at some stage of their development. At one end of the spectrum are children with brief episodes of single tics, whereas at the other are children with chronic multiple tics, including our friend Tourette’s syndrome.

Tics are abrupt and recurrent involuntary motor or vocal actions. Motor tics include eye blinking, grimacing, nose twitching, lip pouting, shoulder shrugging, arm jerking, head jerking, kicking, finger movements, jaw snapping, tooth clicking, frowning, tensing parts of the body, and rapid jerking of any part of the body are simple tics. More complex ones include hopping, clapping, touching, throwing, arranging, gyrating, bending, biting the mouth, the lip, or the arm, head-banging, picking scabs, writhing movements, rolling eyes upwards or side-to-side, making funny expressions, sticking out the tongue, kissing, pinching, writing the same letter or word over and over, and tearing paper or books.

However the tic can also be vocal, with simple ones being coughing, spitting, screeching, barking, grunting, gurgling, clacking, whistling, hissing, sucking sounds, and syllable sounds such as “uh, uh,” “eee,” and “bu.” The complex vocal tics can involve complete phrases such as, “Oh boy,” “you know,” “shut up,” “you’re fat,” “all right,” and “what’s that.” Take that a little further and you get repetitive bad language (which we medicos call Coprolalia, because we love big words) and that is the best known example of Tourette’s syndrome.

Children who have these tics can be looked upon as fools by their peers, and there is a no more predatory group than other children. Parents also can feel helpless in these situations. Form the medical point of view, one has to treat the entire family, not just little Johnny with the foul mouth!

Most children with tics can lead normal lives, and the tics themselves usually slow down in teenage years. Parents should be encouraged to get support for themselves from various organizations such as the Tourette Syndrome Association ([email protected]). With a good understanding of tics and related problems, including acceptance from teachers and education of the child’s peers, most children with tics do not need regular medical follow up.

Parents and children need to understand that although all these symptoms relate to an underlying brain disorder, breaking the cycle may be extremely simple - for example, just allowing the child to have a short “tic break” in a long school lesson may be enough.

Drug treatment can be used, though there are differences in opinion on the efficacy, with some researchers claiming only 30 percent can be helped; however, tic severity and frequency can be reduced. Studies of risperidone in Tourette’s syndrome have shown that it is efficacious too.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I don’t know if this topic has been discussed before but I’m curious to know if all foreigners marry bar girls? I was told this is true according to other ex-pats and Thais. “This is especially true if there is a big age difference who smokes, drinks, tattooed and ill mannered,” as one ex-pat puts it. Is this true or are they blowing off hot air?
GH from UK

Dear GH from UK,
No, all foreigners do not marry bar girls, but as your expat source of information put it so succinctly, older foreigners who do come under the heading of “who smokes, drinks, tattooed and ill mannered” do marry bar girls. The answer is fairly obvious. Who else wants these sorts of people? Who else would put up with them? Only the bar girls - and it’s at a price, Petal. At a price! Then these men have the brass neck to write to Ms. Hillary and complain. And before I get a rash of complaints, not all older men who smoke, drink and have tattoos are exactly as described above. The important adjective is the “ill mannered” aspect. Those are the people will write in and complain, won’t you all, my ill mannered Petals?
Dear Hillary,
I would like to react on last week letter (22nd of January) mailed to you by Mighty Mouse. For me it is unbelievable that Mighty Mouse is complaining that much. If Mighty Mouse is not happy with the situation he mentioned I would like to advice him to stay away from Partya (sic). My suggestion is to move for Pyongyang so he will be sure he can walk one straight line to his goals (besides a few military check points). People move to Partya (sic) for a living or a vacation for some reason. Some people start complaining or doing this all the time. Stop complaining and concentrate for more important things in life. It will make you live longer.
Gert from the Netherlands

Dear Gert from the Netherlands,
Thank you for your letter and trying so hard with the English language (it is difficult tongue to manage, but you should have been able to spell Pattaya, Petal). The little Mighty Mouse was not really being very serious, and I think he wrote his letter after a wine and cheese party, overindulging as little mice will do when the cat’s away! However, I agree with you that everyone (and not just Mighty Mouse) should stop complaining about their lot in life. There are more important (and happier) things in life (especially when all choclatey and washed down with champagne!). (Thank you again, my wonderful Man Looking for an Honest Car Dealer, who left Hillary some Guylian chocs and a very nice bottle of bubbly.)
Dear Hillary,
Thanks to your regular promotion of chocolates and champagne as being on every girl’s wish list, I am currently fitting out a shop in preparation for selling a great variety of the world’s best chocolates together with a vast selection of French champagne.
My chocolates are hand made and comprise of dark and milk chocolate, some filled with familiar tastes such as caramel and marzipan, and others with all natural cordial cherries imported from Belgium. Other ingredients include sweet, creamy, fresh butter, delicious whipping cream, pure cane sugar, fresh roasted nuts, pure flavourings and the freshest fruit purees.
My champagne stock includes Kraemer Brut Cuvee Close, Grande Annee which is aged for a minimum of five years, Bollinger and, of course, Dom Perignon 1985 vintage.
Forget diamonds and pearls, no girl can resist these treats and she will be putty in any man’s hands should he buy them for her. Perhaps your luck will change Hillary, and you will become putty in Mistersingha’s hands.
Minnie Mouse

Dear Minnie Mouse,
It would need a crate of Vintage French champagne to turn Ms. Hillary into putty in that wretched Mistersingha’s hands. A bottle of Bolly from Mistersingha? A 20 year old bottle of Dom? You’ve got to be joking, Petal. He can’t even come across with his promised bottle of Babycham, not even 20 days old!
However, I do agree that your choccy and champers shop sounds absolutely divine. Tell me where it is, and I’ll spend many hours window shopping. Send me a free trial sample and I’ll even let you apply my personal crest above the entrance, with “By Appointment to Ms. Hillary, the Queen of Chocolates and Champagne.” Oh! I can taste the fizzy bubbles already, my Petal. Don’t let me down, like that dreadful Mistersingha person!
By the way, have you thought of doing a champagne and cheese night with your friend Mighty Mouse? Could be an interesting evening.
Dear Hillary,
Bumped into Peasmold Gruntfuttock the other night in the Ganderpoke Bar. There he was, with tethered nadgers and dinglingiron complaisant, bemoaning the lack of Biggles impersonators in town. “Try Hillary,” said Rambling Syd Rumpo, pulling up a bollard. “Loomers on her posset and the best ‘Chocs away!’ in the business!”
Mistersingha

Dear Mistersingha,
You are starting to worry me. Are you hearing the voices again? Do you feel you have been specially selected from on high to carry out a mission for mankind? Start taking the tablets again, Petal. You really need them this time.


Camera Class: Nueng, song, sam. Here comes the digital fuzzies!

by Harry Flashman

There seems to be a common misconception that digital photos are always sharp, probably because most are viewed in the tiny LCD screen at the rear of the camera. However, if you go and take your memory stick to the photoshop to get ‘real’ prints made, you may be very disappointed with what you get back. Unsharp, fuzzy photos.

The reason is simple. Poor technique. Any digital that offers something over three megapixels, should be able to produce sharp prints. It is not the camera’s fault. It is the photographer’s fault.

To take any photograph, the camera must be held very still. For us human beings to hold something still needs us to stabilize our arms, and this is done by bending the elbows and tucking them in close to the body. The camera in many instances is also actually stabilized by the forehead, so provided you can stand still (I often lean against a lamp post or suchlike), the camera is held securely. This is the best case scenario for cameras where you look through the viewfinder.

However, the new little digitals are a different story. The fiddly little LCD viewing screen is looked at away from the face, so the arms are no longer bent with the elbows braced. In fact, take a look at this week’s photo and you will see that the photographer’s arms are stretched out. Try standing like that holding an orange at arm’s length. See how quickly you will get the shakes, trying to hold something unsupported.

What you have to do is to bend the elbows again, and try to keep the camera as close as you can to the eye. You should be able to focus on the screen at a distance of less than 300 mm, (or if you are older, use your reading glasses)!

I have to also admit that I do not entirely blame the digital photographer. Even though most have an optical viewfinder as well, it does not generally show the exact area of coverage. In addition, the optical finder does not usually look through the lens such as in an SLR camera, while the LCD image has come through the lens.

Poor camera holding technique is not just seen with digitals, I have to point out. With today’s Point and Shooters which are so small that they practically fit in one hand, the tendency is to do just that - one handed photography! Let me assure you that while one handed picture taking may look sharp, the end result photograph won’t be.

How many times have you seen a photographer holding the camera in one hand, raising the fingers on the other hand, as he says, “ning-song-sam” (or even “one-two-three”)! The answer is many, many times. And each one of the resulting photographs is not as sharp as it should be.

The simple fact of the matter is that to get sharp photographs, the camera must be held still while the shutter is held open. Now, in most daylight situations if the camera is set on “auto” it will select a shutter speed of around 1/125th of a second, and while that sounds “fast” it really isn’t. You will still get noticeable “softness” in the final print if the hand holding the camera has allowed any movement.

The secret really is in the grip. And it is a two handed one. You will not see any professional photographer taking shots with one hand free. I also recommend that you take a short breath in and then hold it while gently squeezing off the shutter. Many cameras will also have two “hand/finger” impressions on either side of the camera body. They are not there for decoration. Use them!

And for the digital people holding your camera away from yourself, try looping the camera strap around your neck to tether the camera just a little more firmly, and as already mentioned, try to keep the camera as close to your eye as you can.


Life in the Laugh Lane:  Fowl Play

by Scott Jones

The chicken is one of the few things you can eat before it’s alive and after it’s dead. Fried egg. Fried leg. There’s probably some live eating here in Asia but I don’t want to know about it.

My first childhood memory of a live chicken was just before its death. The farmer had begun preparing it for dinner with an axe. Henrietta quietly ran around with her head cut off, careening into walls and her buddies. Quite enthralling then, but rather morbid now, though it gives me insight into the style of many motor bikers in Chiang Mai.

Live chicken for breakfast, anyone

USA chickens are normally pretty generic - bright white body, flaming crimson head - like a red-haired American just arriving in Thailand in February. My bungalow is surrounded by striking Thai chickens with Rasta heads tarred in a multi-colored flurry of feathers – like the same American gone native a few weeks later. They are members of my Natural Food Disposal Corps composed of local dogs, cats, rats, mice, toads, geckos, unidentified flying insects the size of bats, seven trillion ants, Gao the horse, and my landlady’s 200-some birds, turkeys, ducks, geese with honks louder than trucks, and two swans that try to kill each other mud-wrestling in the river. Unfortunately their efficient disposal often includes any food left for a few moments on the table in my outdoor kitchen. With that many creature categories, it seems like they could just feed on each other.

The roosters are roving, vocally-proficient, time-challenged alarm cocks. Every night I hear of the impending sunrise when they begin their doodle-dooing several hours before the sun is near this side of the world. A passing bike headlight can send them into a doodling frenzy which sets off our neighbor’s cocks which sets off his neighbor’s cocks, and so on, all the way to Bangkok. It’s not uncommon for one to be outside my bedroom window at 2 a.m., 1.5 meters from my ears. I expect to open my eyes and see it on the bed, comb, head and beak resting on the pillow next to me. “Goodoodle morning. The sunrise will be in four hours. Can I get you a fresh egg from one of my ladies. (My next snooze alarm will be a hatchet and grilled, semi-boneless breast for breakfast.)

I read about a “gun” developed by NASA to launch dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all traveling at maximum velocity, in order to simulate collisions with airborne fowl and test the strength of the windshields. British engineers tested it on a new high speed train. When the gun was fired, the chicken shot through the shatterproof shield and control console, snapped the engineer’s backrest in two and stuck in the back wall of the cabin. After reviewing the disastrous results and experiment procedure, NASA’s response was just three words: “Thaw the chicken.”

I want this machine so at 2 a.m. I can launch a few roosters into the next village or through my landlady’s bedroom window.