Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner

Life in the Laugh Lane

The Doctor's Consultation: Knees up Mother Brown - if she can

by Dr. Iain Corness

Unfortunately, we all wear out. Joints in particular are mechanical devices, with one bone sliding on another with a slippery bit (called cartilage) in between. Most joints, especially knee joints, are designed to last our three score years and ten, and that’s about it. We now live longer, but we have not worked out how to make the joints last longer!

We do know why they wear out, especially knee joints. Since they are mechanical, increase the loading on the joint and it wears out quicker. Imagine that your knee has been designed to hold up 80 kg for 70 years, and now increase that loading to 120 kg. That same knee now has to support 50 percent more than it was ‘designed’ for, so you can expect it to wear out 50 percent sooner. Simple.

Of course, when the damaged knee starts to give its owner pain and grief, what happens? For a start they stop walking and exercising because it becomes too painful. This in turn means that they will now become more overweight, and so the problem gets worse, and worse, and worse.

So they hobble down to the doctor and ask for something for the pain. The doctor thinks through the latest medical drugs for this condition, and most probably will hand over some Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and tell the patient to lose weight.

Now I am not saying that this is totally wrong - but - when the NSAIDs first came out (hands up all those who remember Indocid) they were heralded as being the answer to these problems. Some were even supposed to ‘grow’ new cartilage. The answer to a maiden’s prayer, or the osteoarthitic’s prayers at least.

Unfortunately, we very quickly found that Indocid and its ilk drilled holes in the lining of the stomach and were more than slightly dangerous. So we developed newer and better and more stomach-sparing NSAIDs. Unfortunately, these too produced problems.

Nothing daunted, we came up with even newer and more wonderful NSAIDs, which came with even newer and more wonderful array of side effects. Really, we have been chasing our tails here, and not winning.

So what can the poor patient do? The doctor is not offering help, only tablets with abominable (read abdominal) side effects. Most patients have already tried paracetamol, hot water bottles, someone else’s great new tablets, NZ green lipped mussels, a cabbage leaf (which does work for mastitis, or so the ladies tell me), various herbal or homoeopathic medications, yoga, meditation, copper bracelets, and goodness knows what else.

So what can the “osteo” sufferer do? Exercise does help to improve the mobility in the knee joint, and by strengthening the muscles and ligaments around the knee, give it more stability.

There is another avenue in the treatment, and that is direct injections into the affected joints. This produces spectacular results, which unfortunately is short lived. However, even a couple of weeks can make it such that the person can go on holidays and actually enjoy some mobility.

Finally, there is surgery, which currently is the treatment of last resort. Since around 90 percent of patients show lessening of pain, improvement in functional status and overall quality of life, I think we should be looking at operation sooner, rather than later. But that’s just my opinion.

In the meantime, Mrs. Brown should take paracetamol and short bursts of NSAIDs when required. However, if she is over 60 years of age, stick to paracetamol and talk to the orthopaedic surgeon about knee replacements.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
Year after year, I see and hear many lonely, ignorant, old, fools complaining about Pattaya’s bar girls and freelancers. But can you really blame them? Can you imagine yourself shaking up with someone who is 15, 30 or 50 years older than you are and expect to be happy? What do they expect? Thai girls, well as all girls in the world want to be with someone their own age and not someone who can be their father’s or grandfather’s age.

Thailand and especially Pattaya attracts some of the worst quality tourists and expatriates in the world. We are talking about, etc. Albeit, we do have some good “dirty-old-men” here who treat these girls and women nicely and gets along fine.

So stop whining. We have a good thing going here and enjoy Thailand while it’s still affordable.
Happy Camper

Dear Happy Camper,
Oooh, I must meet your friends! Are all of them alcoholics, druggies, perverts, pedophiles, psychos, delinquents, criminals, crooks, losers and loners? No wonder you have such an attitude. I would too, surrounded by all that lot! However, getting back to your letter, I wonder if it should have been “shacking up” rather than “shaking up”? Although I suppose they can almost be the same thing! In actual fact, the old adage is very pertinent here, “You get what you pay for!” So if your motley lot are happy to pay for the pleasures, knowing there is no permanence being offered, then let them continue, and ignore their complaints. By the way, not all the farangs here are “alcoholics, druggies, perverts, pedophiles, psychos, delinquents, criminals, crooks, losers and loners”. I met a very nice chap the other evening. I just can’t remember his name!

Dear Hillary,
She said, “Hello, handsome man,” and led me into her bar where she then challenged me to a game of pool. She beat me three games to zero. I then challenged her to a game of darts. She threw with pinpoint accuracy and beat me four games straight.

Not wanting to be outdone by a cheeky female who was only five feet tall, I instructed the bar staff to keep the beers coming until one of us quit drinking. She was about to order her tenth bottle when I quit on my eighth. I took her to the grill house and ordered two large sirloin steaks. She quickly devoured hers and was looking through the menu to order more food, whilst I struggled to finish mine. On the disco floor, she energetically bumped, rocked and bopped, I tripped, stumbled and flopped. Later, with the bedroom Olympics well under way, she immobilised me in some kind of Greek Kama Sutra wrestling hold that completely depleted me of my remaining power, and I was finally forced to admit defeat. The next morning she flipped a coin, double or nothing for her taxi fare money. The coin came down heads and, you guessed it, she picked heads.
Am I doing something wrong or are all Walking Street girls this skilled?
Mighty Mouse

Dear Mighty Mouse,
Oh my poor little (less than Mighty) Mouse, how can you allow yourself to be deceived in this way? You should have known from the first greeting of “Hello, handsome man,” that she was being somewhat sparing with the truth. Even Happy Camper’s “alcoholics, druggies, perverts, pedophiles, psychos, delinquents, criminals, crooks, losers and loners” get that greeting as well. We are not talking about ‘skill’ here, my smooth grey Petal. We are talking about ‘practice making perfect’. Your lady of the night was no enthusiastic inexperienced amateur novice, but a well experienced professional who could toss ten heads in a row (and probably has)! So you lost at pool, darts, dental diversions, the disco-duck, rumpy-pumpy and the taxi fare. Why didn’t you challenge her to ‘Connect 4’ as well? You would have been able to add that to your list of defeats, my Petal. Hillary has told you before, nice little mice should not be out at night. There’s far too many pussies looking to pounce on little mice and devour them after dark!
Dear Hillary,
Nit and Ying (the adorable wee ones) have legged it northwards for the buffalo tickling and so I popped down to ‘Percy’s Puds’ the other day for lunch with Hortense Slobotham. Horti tells me that her new bar is progressing nicely but would benefit further by having an ‘Aunty in Residence’. Fancy hanging out at ‘Slobotham’s’ Hillary? Hammock provided (Nit likes stripey ones) and a flute of Brut as required!
Mistersingha

Dear Mistersingha,
Lunch with Hortense has all the portents of disaster, Mistersingha. For her sake, I hope she didn’t have to pay for your lunch, as I doubt very much that you would have offered to pay for hers. Since you are so well experienced in all things Thai, I would imagine that you would have done a runner before the third course, giving you time to leg it before the cashier could add up the total. And does Hortense know that you are offering me a flute of Brut, from her bar? I doubt it, my prevaricating Petal. Why don’t you just accompany Nit and Ying and practise buffalo fighting with red cape and butter knife, that’s a good chap. Please feel free to contact me again after you’ve made good on last year’s promises.


Camera Class: Eye-catching inexpensive wall art

by Harry Flashman

There is something about walking into a house and seeing some spectacular photographs being used as wall art. This week’s column will show you how you can produce your own wall art inexpensively.

One very good way to give extra impact to your photographs is to ‘pair’ your images by use of contrasts. Contrasting images are excellent subjects for wall art - that photographic end product that can make you a ‘star’ even if it is only in your own lounge room!

The first, and one of the most obvious contrasts is to take the same subject, but at different times of the day. The “cold” blue light of morning, compared with the “warm” golden glow of the late afternoon. The sun will be coming from different angles, and the light is totally different. If you have a tripod, you could even add a third image by taking a shot just after sundown as well.

Now there are a couple of tricks here that you have to watch. The first is that you must take the shots from exactly the same position, even if you have to camp there all day! However, what I often do is to mark the spot where the shot was taken in the morning, so I can come back and find the identical spot later. The second factor is to make sure that if you are using a zoom lens, that you use the same setting each time. The idea is to ensure that the only item of change is the lighting.

Another contrast is to use the weather to give you a different look to the same subject. Even a street scene with pedestrians taken in daylight and then again with umbrellas in the rain tells a very different story. Once more, you are recording the same subject in another way. So next time it is teeming down with rain go outdoors with your camera and get something pleasing and then recreate it in the dry.

What we will do now is to exercise our minds (yours and mine) and come up with some opposites - then work out how to present these on film. As I have said so many times, a good photograph is “made” rather than just happening. The way the pros work is to build on a concept and then work out the way of showing it on film.

So let’s take some - there is young and old that springs immediately to mind. A shot of a very old person with a young child is always an attention grabber. Or even the same person 50 years apart. How many times have you seen big advertising companies use just that shot? Lots!

What about old and new? The range here is as big as your imagination. A shiny new car parked beside a wrecked one, a new beach umbrella beside a tattered old one, a shot of a workers corrugated iron and packing case ‘house’ beside a bright, spanking new mansion. Or even a photo of a box Brownie and a new Nikon.

There’s plenty more - hot and cold, rough and smooth, light and heavy - there is really no end to what you can portray.

But it doesn’t end there either. Think about the different ways you can do things. From digging a trench with an old shovel, to watching a huge mechanical ditch digger at work. How about a sundial with a watch hooked on it? A light bulb and a candle, a horse and buggy and a new Mercedes. Again, just let your imagination run riot and go from there.

The presentation of contrasting images is important. Select the best two shots and get enlargements done. 10 inches by 8 inches (called 8R by most labs) is a good size and then get them mounted side by side using a double matte. With the cost of framing being so cheap in Thailand it is very easy to produce great wall art. All that is needed are your images and some original imagination. This weekend, make some wall art and amaze your friends with your creativity.


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

In my last column, I promised that I would share some more questions from readers, but before that I want to look at getting rid of the nasties.

Specifically web sites that come out of cyberspace, pop-up ads that pop up from nowhere and search engines that hijack browsers and deliver their own parasites. It seems the nasties are getting nastier. Whether you prefer to call them adware, spyware or malware, these sneaky programs are getting harder to remove from our systems.

Citec Asia is seeing an enormous increase in help requests. The main nasties include “drive-by downloads” - software that invites itself onto your system when you view certain websites, then “hijacks your homepage and search engine and installs pop-up generators”. The second-most-common nasty is free software with strings attached.

Adware captures data and browsing habits, sending information back for marketing purposes. Spyware captures information, and the term Malware (malicious software) refers to both ad and spy-related pests. Trojans give hackers easy entry into other people’s computers, while sneaky key-loggers capture passwords and other details tapped into the keyboard.

The Australian Computer Emergency Response Team says that Spyware could be a bigger threat than first believed. “The main problem with Spyware is the hidden worms and viruses with integrated Trojans doing the key-logging.

Many novice and quite a few not so novice computer users are baffled how unwanted programs arrive on their systems. Others actually install the software and even agree to the terms (Kazaa is just one example). But once on the computer, the problems really start when you try to get rid of them. It is increasingly difficult to get rid of some programs. It used to be that we could easily delete Spyware by simply deleting a file or two but … Oh dear, the but word again, Spyware changed and started writing to the Windows Registry and installing files in multiple locations using random names.

Using programs such as AdAware and Spybot Search & Destroy (two anti-spyware pioneers) users started reporting that they were able to remove Spyware, but as soon as they reboot their computer it was back, often under a different name.

Anti-Spyware crusaders have also developed specific extermination tools. CWShredder, for example, is designed to help get rid of CoolWebSearch, one of the most-hated pests. CoolWebSearch is so notorious because it is so widespread, so persistent and as quickly as we work out ways to get rid of it, the authors fight back with even more advanced versions. The latest tactics go even further, registering as a Windows Service, which requires more advanced computer skills to diagnose and remove. If it’s hard for professionals to remove then ordinary folk have some real problems.

John, a 62-year-old retiree from the UK now living in Chiang Mai, is a cautious internet user. An email supposedly from a friend caught him off-guard and he says he didn’t download anything. But just opening the link on an e-mail supposedly from his friend, replaced his usual homepage with a foreign search engine. “I haven’t touched that search engine,” he says. “I reset my homepage but it (the foreign search engine) keeps coming back. It also seems to interfere with my ability to take other links in emails.”

John’s plight is the result of a “drive-by” browser hijacking where code on a malicious webpage attempts to take control of a visitor’s internet settings.

Drive-by downloads can be avoided if we lock down Internet Explorer by turning off ActiveX, but this is a double-edged sword. Many anti-spyware pages won’t load if ActiveX is disabled. It’s almost impossible to find a balance between protecting users and letting them keep the bells and whistles that have become so common.

Many internet users are grateful for the efforts of those who create spyware removal tools. But even that is now being exploited. Betrayware is “software that claims to be an anti-parasite program which in fact installs Malware. Betrayware is advertised using pop-up windows that claim your computer is infected with legitimate looking Windows error messages.

Fighting back

* Use a combination of anti-spyware tools such as Webroot Spysweeper, Spybot Search & Destroy and AdAware.

* Use up-to-date firewall and anti-virus programs and keep them up to date.

* Do not allow a website to install or run anything on your computer unless you have initiated the download.

* Most spyware seems to target the largest group of internet users - those using Windows and Internet Explorer. It is vital to keep new-found holes plugged and apply critical patches.

* Stay informed of threats and sign up for anti-virus warnings from a reliable source.

* For Internet Explorer, set ActiveX controls to “prompt” (Tools menu, Internet options, Security, Custom level) and disable “install on demand” (Tools menu, Internet options, Advanced).

* Set Outlook Express to view all messages as plain text (Tools menu, Options, Read).

* Do not open unexpected attachments, even those that appear to come from known sources.

In the next column, I have a few more Questions and Answers to share with you. Don’t forget to keep your preferred anti-virus and spysweepers up to date. Do a full hard disc scan and sweep at least once a week. Don’t open e-mails with funny attachments if you’re not expecting them and last but not least, make sure your firewall is on.

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.


Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner: Love Force

Having worked intimately with animals for over 30 years, Mrs. DoLittle has had to be “mother” to many different animal species. Anything from a baby elephant, rhinos, tigers, bears (phew what armfuls) to a tiny fuzzy ferret badger, have rested for a spell in my arms. Each one was dear to my heart and had a distinctive personality, with individual tastes and desires. All of them had a sense of humor and tried to outsmart me when we played games. All of them got along with the permanent household animals, perhaps the most unusual being a relationship between a pig and a bear.

Teddy was always interested to participate in anything as long as it wasn’t boring.

All of them knew the house rules, a time to stop playing, stop biting, a time to be nourished, to have your ears cleaned, a time to be quiet and go to sleep. When Mrs. DoLittle brushed Nom the lion’s teeth, he just stood there grinning. He loved having a clean mouth. I was rewarded with a tongue facial abrasion, straight from the “jungle spa”. Lion tongues are also good for removing unwanted hair off your arms and legs. It’s a lot easier than waxing.

It’s really amazing the alternative uses you can find for animals. Teddy the bear was a perfect chiropractor. All you had to do was to place your belly on his, then place his arms around your back where the problem was. As you fell forward onto his chest, he would lift you off the ground and give your back a good crack. It worked every time. However, unless you wanted to roll over completely into a jelly massage, you had to place him against a tree before you started.

Teddy was always interested to participate in anything as long as it wasn’t boring. He could never understand why the dogs got all worked up over chasing a ball. When I tried to get him to fetch one, he gave me a look that said, “Give me a break! Get me a bucket of paint or turn on the radio or something.” He loved music and used to tap his foot with the beat. Classical music made him stop eating and look to the sky. He probably thought it was heavenly.

Bandit the ferret badger’s best friend was Toddy the German shepherd. Bandit would hitch rides on Toddy’s back around the house and garden. Toddy always made sure the badger didn’t fall off. Sometimes Toddy would have another passenger along, a gibbon named Ping. The gibbon was too small to use her legs so Toddy would pick her up from Mrs. DoLittle’s bed and take her for walks. Ping would crawl onto her back and hang onto her neck hair. Sometimes Charlie the monkey would come along too, but he used her back as a platform to tease the other dogs, so one day Toddy walked through a bush to get Charlie off her back.

Charlie also used to ride a rather large cat we had named Tiny, although it was not with the cat’s approval. Tiny would come tearing through the place with Charlie screaming, hanging around his body for dear life until he was finally dropped off. This would happen three times a day and went on for three months, until one day when I found them sleeping together in a tree peacefully. After that Tiny put up with dragging Charlie around.

One thing that has always bonded my somewhat strange family is Love Glue. It is just something that oozes out of our veins when many species embrace each other as one.

The moral of this story is: Love is the strongest force in the universe. It produces miracles.


Life in the Laugh Lane: My First, Second and Third Million

by Scott Jones

I never imagined I would be a millionaire. In America, I was normally a thousandaire. Sometimes at the end of the month, a hundredaire. Right after tax time, a dollar-fiftyaire. My wife was a frigidaire.

My first three million came on my first day in Ho Chi Minh City. I put my card in the ATM machine to withdraw $200 and out came 3,000,000. Thirty 100,000 bills. I blew fifty grand on lunch. Exchange rate: one dollar = 15,000 Vietnamese dong.

Here’s 10 grand for some fish heads. Keep the change. Keep the heads, too.

It’s a little hard to get your mind around the conversion rate. A roasted ear of corn for 3,000, but hey, that’s only 6 cents. Moved by the fortitude of people who have restored their country after centuries of foreign occupation, I left thousands in markets, as tips on tables or in the hands of amputees. “A pile o’ fish heads for 1,000? Cool. I’ll take a kilo. Any orphan cats around?”

Some tourists either can’t do basic arithmetic or have a big callous where their heart should be. On a Mekong River tour with assorted folks from everywhere, there was one woman we dubbed “The French Wench” who had come to shop, barter, haggle and generally harass Asia. It’s one thing to challenge prices in a pushy, over-inflated market but she held up the tour badgering a teenaged food vendor at one of our stops. 25 hot ears of corn, his entire daily stock, might bring his income near the national average of one dollar per day, 365 per year. She was determined to get 2 for 1, an ear for 3 cents instead of 6. Grim. The rest of us baking on the bus, now embarrassed to be tall, white and exist anywhere near her, vowed to shove both her ears of corn where the sun don’t shine - sideways.

A stereotypically-thrifty Scottish friend waited in line behind a foreigner demanding some trinket for half of its normal miniscule price of 10,000 dong. After several excruciating minutes she grabbed it, handed the shopkeeper 20,000 dong, stuck the trinket in the farang’s hand and said, “Go home.” Three cheers and a beer for Scotland!

Vietnam sells more and cheaper counterfeit CDs than Thailand. Machines crank them out in hotel lobbies. My guesthouse had a deal selling 10 CDs for 10,000 each. While I waited in line to check out, I was ready to duct tape the mouth of some English speaking lowlife from Crassland. Mr. Surly had 20 CDs on the counter and was working himself into a frenzy because he thought he deserved two for free. (Keep in mind, they’re already way less than a dollar each.) “Come on. Gimme a deal here. Come on!” The young girl smiled politely and gently told him it was already a deal. As if she would understand the same words spoken progressively louder, he yelled, “Come on! Just gimme two free. Come on! I’m buying 20. Come on! Come on!!!!” In Vietnamese, “come on” (kam on) means “thank you.”