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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:  Is chocolate only for lovers?

Siriwan Somsiri

Valentine’s Day is all about the heart, and appreciating those we love… The good news is that one of the most enjoyable gifts we share on Valentine’s Day is good for the heart in more ways than one.

Each Valentine’s Day, many people give their loved one’s chocolate as a symbol of love and appreciation because they know that these gifts warm the hearts emotionally, and your cardiologist may tell you that chocolate is also good for the physical heart.

A chocolate fountain, not just for lovers!

But not just any chocolate will do. To get the heart-healthy benefits, it needs to be deep, rich, dark chocolate. The reason is that dark chocolate is chock-full of special flavonoids — called epicatechins — that act as antioxidants and modulators of hormone-like compounds in the body. These large, complex molecules are not commonly found in other foods. That’s why some researchers believe that chocolate provides even more health benefits than red wine or green tea.

Furthermore, dark chocolate contains a wonderful supply of oleic acid, a fatty acid that promotes normal cholesterol levels. All these things make chocolate a heart-healthy food (in moderation, of course).

The Darker the Better.

Chocolate has a light and dark side—literally. White and milk chocolate, for example, have none of the benefits I just mentioned. They’re just pure sugar and fat, or empty calories. What you need to look for are high-quality semi-sweet or bittersweet bars or pure cocoa powder.

My favorites are undoubtedly premium Belgian chocolate because these products have a high cocoa content, but their “strong dark” bar with 70 percent cocoa provides the best balance between taste and health benefits in my opinion. And their “rich dark” with 65 percent cocoa is excellent too. With this type of rich, dark chocolate a little goes a long way.

It’s no coincidence that on Valentine’s Day, we give chocolates to the ones we love. Chocolate, especially when given with an open heart, can help confer some of the immense benefits that only love brings to our lives.

Remember to sample free Belgian chocolates in a real chocolate fountain during the Chiangmai Classics Concerts which will be held on February 25 and March 12, 2005 at the Kad Suan Kaew theatre.

The Doctor's Consultation: Why western doctors don’t want to do house calls any more

by Dr. Iain Corness

Part of the job of being a GP is to service the patients in their homes. While GP’s would prefer the patients to come to the clinics, there are times when the patient is just too sick to come, or too old or infirm. House calls (or ‘hotel’ calls) will always be necessary. However, house calls are probably the most dangerous part of being a medico.

In Australia, one of the authoritative medical publications has just run a survey to see how dangerous home visits can be. 21 percent of GPs said they or their staff have to deal with violent patients every week. One GP in 12 has been physically attacked, and 14 percent have been directly threatened with physical violence.

The usual causes for the aggression towards the doctors include refusal to prescribe a requested drug (mentioned by 68 percent of doctors), the patient being affected by drugs or alcohol (53 percent) and long waiting times (51 percent).

So is Australia the haven for drunken, drug addicted patients with a short fuse? The answer is not totally, but this problem is the same all over the western world. I can remember 35 years ago having to do a weekly house call to a very disturbed individual in the UK. This person, according to local knowledge, had murdered the previous doctor I was standing in for, but the police did not have enough evidence. I used to wave my stethoscope around the door while calling out “It’s the doctor,” while being ready to run!

The article mentioned a Sydney GP who had been chased by a machete wielding patient. Frightening, but undoubtedly true. Once again, I have had my fair share of these undeserving patients. One Xmas Day I was called to a local factory, where a patient, sporting a machete, was walking around threatening to kill the plant manager. Rather than call the police, they called me, because he was my patient! I managed to settle the chap, get his machete, and then called the police!

From the patient’s point of view, there are many problems too. If the sick person has no regular GP, he or she may find that most GP’s will refuse to come. From the doctor’s point of view, it is enough of a risk with the ‘regular’ patients, but to go to places you don’t know to see people you don’t know is certainly putting your head in the lion’s mouth.

What has happened is that the GP’s would rather contract another doctor, or group of doctors, to do these dangerous house calls for them. This makes sense in many ways. The doctor you get at 3 a.m. has been asleep all day and is (reasonably) alert, while your own GP, who has been seeing patients all day is (certainly) not at his best.

Many doctors team up with others in the practice, or neighborhood, to do the house calls on a rotational basis. This was how my practice handled the after hours work, but each year the after hours duties became more dangerous.

As the problems began to escalate, I began to take my (then) medical student son with me on house calls. The fact that he was 6’6" tall was definitely comforting. He enjoyed the additional medical experience he was receiving and being with his father, and when we were asked to make a house call to the local house of ill repute, he learned some other lessons about ‘life’ as well.

House calls can sometimes be fun too!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I’m now thinking I’m going to quit my job in Japan and start running a go-go bar in Pattaya. But, the problem is that I don’t know how to hire good-looking girl there. The girl in the page of August 2005 in the calender (sic) of Super-baby a go-go is my favorite. How can I meet her?

Dear Annoyd,
I think the first step would be to write to the Immigration Police in Pattaya and let them know of your intending business venture, and they will help you with the currency exchange and paperwork and put you in touch with the right person in the Labor Department in Chonburi. After that, you should hire a reputable Private Investigator to find the August 2005 calendar girl, as she may already be in Japan working as a waitress, or similar position, and may not wish to return to the chrome pole paradise of Pattaya. It would be such a shame to spend all that money on air fares, just for nothing. What are you going to call your go-go bar, Petal? Nippon or Nip Off a-go-go? Pattaya is waiting with bated breath. If there’s one business that Pattaya is really short of, it’s a go-go bar!
Dear Hillary,
My girlfriend is a closet exhibitionist and I was wondering if there would be any problems if we came to Thailand and did a little photography session? We would use a raincoat and then get our pictures and run. Any ideas where we should go, Hillary?
The Kinky Closet Couple

Dear Kinky Closet Couple,
I am not sure I totally understand you. Just what is it that you are doing in this closet? Are you going to be bringing the closet over with you, or do you think you can pick one up here? Won’t it be dark inside the closet, and maybe even a little hot and sweaty in a raincoat? It gets very hot over here, even in the evenings. Where should you run to, Petals? I really don’t know. Legging it is an Olympic sport in Thailand, but generally after road accidents. I haven’t heard of closet leggers, so I really can’t advise you, I’m afraid.
Dear Hillary,
Why do you continue to print letters from the Mistersingha person? He’s not really looking for advice, he just wants to see his name in print I reckon, and half of the stuff he writes in is nonsense. I reckon he makes everything up, as well as his stupid name.

Dear Misterrealbeer,
There have been times, Petal, many times, that I have considered slashing the editorial red pen right through the middle of it all, but then I have to think that if he continues writing in, I must be filling some sort of deep down psychological need. And that is what is needed of a confidential counselor like myself. That is why so many of my clients use pseudonyms (that’s a big word for ‘pen name’ Mistersingha), so that they can receive the advice publicly, without having to reveal themselves in public. In Mistersingha’s case, it also means he gets free advice, that otherwise he would have to pay for. I am sure he is strapped for cash, the poor lad. The reason he never sends the promised champagne and chocolates is that he can’t afford to buy them. In some ways he’s just like me. I can’t afford to buy them either!
Dear Hillary,
I have been going out with a wonderful Thai girl, a proper young “lady” not a bar girl, and we have become quite serious and I am now looking into the future. Everything seemed to be going along very well, although we did have some problems, just caused by communication problems (as I can’t speak Thai). The other night she dropped the bombshell. “My mother tell me I must marry Thai man.” Just like that! Hillary, is this a common thing in Thai families? Does her mother have that much power that she can dictate what her daughter does, and even the choice of husband for her? Surely in this 21st century Thai girls are not stuck with arranged marriages, and if they are, what can a farang do in this situation?
Devastated Dave

Dear DD,
Does her mother have that sort of authority? In a traditional Thai family she certainly does. It may be the 21st century for you, Dave, but in Thailand it is the 26th century and despite the extra 500 years, the traditional ways are still very strong. Thai people believe in the need for family members to look after each other and her mother is merely looking after her daughter in the traditional way. You are from an alien culture, Petal, and even if your Thai lady is well versed in the ways of the modern international world, the traditional values will still be held by the family. Have you stopped to consider that perhaps the Thai man may have already paid a dowry to the family? In the case of a well educated girl this could go as high as two million baht. What can you do? You can either keep in there and hope, or call it quits now before you get in too deep. However, you should sit down with your girl and discuss it first.

Camera Class: Shadow shows shape!

by Harry Flashman

Coming out of the shadows is important in photography, however, there is a tendency for many photographers to try and eliminate shadows from their photos entirely. They do this by turning their photographic subjects so they directly face the sun, or turn on their on-camera flash if the sun is not blazing down as the celestial light super source. Unfortunately, this is incorrect.

Undoubtedly the subject will now be well lit, but you have also removed shape and form from the photograph. You see, the way to convey shape is by showing the shadow the object casts. No shadow and it looks flat. Incorporate shadow and “Hey Presto!” you have invented 3D.

Shadow has another benefit - it gives an air of mystery to any picture. Dark shadows allow the viewer to imagine what is being hidden. Your photograph “hints” at something and the viewer’s mind does the rest from there.

Here is an exercise for this weekend. Let’s put some shadows into your photographs. Let’s do a portrait to incorporate shadow. And let’s do this indoors and without flash guns or any fancy equipment, and get a ‘professional’ look to the final print.

Find the largest window in your house or condominium and put a chair about one metre away from it. The chair should be parallel to the window, not facing it.

Place your sitter in the chair and position another chair facing the sitter. This one is yours, as you will take the photo sitting down. Reason? This way you keep the camera at the same level as your subject’s face and you will get a more pleasing portrait. If you photograph from a position below the subject you tend to give them “piggy” nostrils and it shortens the look of the nose. In a country where ‘big noses’ are considered desirable, this is not the effect wanted.

Now, make sure that your auto flash is turned off. This is important with point and shooters that can fire off as soon as light levels are lower than usual. Look through the viewfinder and position yourself so that the sitters face is almost filling the frame. Notice that the side of the face away from the window light source is now in shadow. If you have the ability to meter from the lit side of the face, then do so. But if not, just blast off a couple of frames on auto and let the camera do the worrying.

Now here is a super trick to do if you have an SLR. Turn the film speed dial from the ASA of the film you are using to the next highest film speed. For example, if you are shooting 100 ASA go to 200 ASA. If you have used 200 ASA then bump it up to 400 ASA. What you are doing is effectively reducing the amount of light falling on to the film by 50 percent. This way you should “fool” the camera’s meter and make sure you get some good shadows.

You should also slightly angle the sitters chair so that one shoulder is closer to the camera and get the subject to turn their head to face the camera again. Try angling in both directions so you will get a choice of shots.

Another variation to try is to place a thin voile net over the window, or draw any transparent curtains. This will soften the light and is particularly effective when taking shots of women. Again go through the variations, including the change of ASA rate.

For a portrait study such as this it is worth using a complete roll of film. Remember that you are not doing 36 identical shots - you are making variations in pose, lighting and exposure. There are also facial expressions to change - laughing, smiling, serious or sad. It is very easy to end up with 36 different shots.

By the time you add up the costs of film and processing you will have spent around 400 baht. That is a very cheap “professional” portrait! Try it.

Life in the Laugh Lane: Election Daze

by Scott Jones

I majored in Political Science. “Thanks, Mom and Dad, for spending my inheritance on college but there were no ads in the classified section stating ‘Political Scientist Needed’ so I decided to be a comedian.” Similar professions. We crave the media, wear funny hats while shaking hands with folks we’ve just met as if they’ve been our lifelong friends, and tell both true and fabricated stories so the public never knows which is which.

POLITICIANS is officially the acronym for People Of Low Intelligence Talking In Circles, Improbabilities And Non Sequiturs. Difference? When comedians have a successful evening they say, “We killed ‘em!” Politicians actually do it.

As I write this column, it’s Sunday the 6th, Election Day. I can’t vote. I don’t care who wins. I can’t read Thai but it’s been fun to look at the pictures. I’m glad the election frenzy will soon be over. I prefer Thailand when I can see lovely trees, lampposts and buildings rather than a million stern faces looking back at me.

Not understanding the names or slogans on the posters, I had to guess the candidates’ personalities and professions solely by their photos. Bangkok’s were definitely more diverse. There were a couple of young airline stewardesses or UPS delivery girls, one woman who had just awakened from a frontal lobotomy procedure, a person halfway through a sex change operation but he (or she) is not sure where she (or he) started or where he, she or it is going, a deceased man with make-up done by a mortician, one severely-smiling dude with way too many gums showing, and several hundred friends of the Prime Minister, standing straight and motionless next to him, dressed in multi-colored uniforms, hand-made from cement.

My personal Political Creativity and Truth in Advertising Award goes to Mr. Whoever in the three posters shown here. What is a politician without his mouth? This one puts his mouth right where his money is. Did he come campaigning and complaining at your house? Did you crack the door to see a snarl? Mouth Poster 1, “Vote for me or else.” Mouth Poster 2, “What do you mean you’re not voting for me?” The Punchline Poster 3 when you opened the door or he and his friends opened it for you, “Meet the head of my campaign. He has a very hard head. How’s yours?” Someone told me he’s the brother of a large massage concern. You’ll never forget this man’s massage, no matter how hard you try.

It’s just like being in America. When I left my home state of Minnesota, the governor was professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Popular slogan, “My governor can beat up your governor.”