Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dogs - Man’s best friend

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

The Doctor's Consultation: Smoking improves your memory?

by Dr. Iain Corness

The smokers amongst you will have seized on that headline and are voraciously reading this item, in the hope that you have some evidence to throw in the face of those who would point the finger at all smokers.

In a recent edition of the British Medical Journal, a publication not known for wild and extravagant claims, researchers reported on the claims that smoking enhances memory, vigilance, attention and reduces the risk of dementia.

Now when the British Medical Journal (BMJ) publishes results, the author has been checked for his or her bona fides, and the results are also checked by independent specialists. When the BMJ publishes something, it is authoritative.

In a well researched article, entitled ‘Long term smoking contributes to cognitive decline’, the study was based on about 500 men and women who were all born in 1936 and who had taken part in the same IQ survey in 1947, and who had agreed to be re-examined at the age of about 64 between 2000 - 2002 to measure any decline.

In essence, what the researchers did, was to look at the IQ score of the 500 people when they were 11 years old in 1936, and then compare the scores at age 64. It was also found that many factors were involved, including education, occupation, lung function and smoking.

The authors, from universities at Aberdeen and Edinburgh, reported in a paper in Addictive Behaviors (2005;30:77-88), “Current smokers and non-smokers had significantly different mental test scores at age 64. This difference remained after adjustment for childhood IQ,” said the authors.

Now comes the crunch line. “After adjustment for childhood IQ, a positive smoking history was associated with lower performance on tests of psychomotor speed and on a composite score derived from five cognitive tests,” says the report. “There were no differences in IQ at age 11 by smoking status, but by age 64, current smokers were performing less well on cognitive tests than non-smokers and former smokers. Psychomotor speed was lower in smokers.”

After taking every other variable factor into consideration, the research did not back up the claims that smoking enhances memory, vigilance, attention and reduces the risk of dementia. In fact, it was quite the reverse. Quoting directly from the report in the BMJ, “We conclude that long term smoking does not produce long term cognitive benefits; to the contrary, smoking makes a small but significant contribution to cognitive decline from age 11 to 64.”

The authors added, “The data obtained here suggest that about 5.7 percent of the variance in cognitive function at age 64 is attributable to the effects of education and occupation after adjustment for IQ at age 11. Thereafter, small but significant negative contributions amounting to no more than about 4 percent are made by a combination of smoking and impaired lung function acting both together and alone. Although negative effects on cognition are relatively small in terms of a single individual, these effects are important at the population level. As a lifestyle choice, they are open to modification and thereby to enhancement of retention of cognitive function.”

In a nutshell, this research has shown that you can expect a slow deterioration in your mental function, but if you remain interested in life and continue your education, have an interesting job and don’t smoke, you have every chance of still being on the ball when you turn 64.

If not, you will have reduced your mental capacity by 10 percent. Now while 10 percent doesn’t sound much, in the IQ stakes, it means a lot!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
A line to advise you that I will become Misterguinness/jameson for twenty-four hours on March 17th and will throw a leg.
Mistersingha
Dear Mistersingha,

Thank you for the advice. I will remember to stay away from Jameson’s Pub on March 17th. You can leave the bottle of French champagne and the box of Belgian chocolates you promised me about two years ago with Bob, the lovely chap behind the bar. As far as your leg throwing is concerned, have you consulted anybody about this problem? Is it leprosy? Or have you lost a leg already and the wooden one has Dutch Elm disease?
Dear Hillary,
Being a reader of the Mail for many years now I would like to offer my compliments on your advice column, “Heart to Heart with Hillary” and your straight-forward replies to your readers tempered with the Hillary wit.
I do not normally write to newspapers or expresses views to others unless requested, but would like to put forward my views on the much maligned Thai women expressed by many of your readers through the years. Throughout my many years of visiting and residing here I find both bad and good people, as in any country.
I became acquainted with Thailand during the Vietnam conflict and subsequently married a woman who had a ready-made family and took her back to my home country. After sixteen years of marriage she became addicted to gambling. After several years of fighting a losing battle, I gave up and obtained a divorce. I told her five children that I had adopted, raised and educated, that she was now their responsibility.
Since this was my second marriage, and I was now over 65, I decided to be selfish and think of myself for a change, so retired in Thailand. After about 6 to 8 months of drinking and frequenting all the local bars, my health failed and I returned to my home country for examinations. I was diagnosed with stomach cancer and after the shock wore off, I decided to return to Thailand and enjoy what time I had left in this world.
After my return, like many people that have received such news, I decided to visit places where I served in the military to recapture my youth and memories of more happy days. During one of these visits I met a young lady who was taking English courses and wanted to practice her conversation with a native speaker. We became friends and talked about many things including the negative experiences I had suffered in my own marriages.
After a year of a platonic relationship and meeting her family, she revealed one day that she felt more comfortable with me than she did with other men. I spent several weeks attempting to talk her out of concentrating on me. I was not successful and our friendship developed into something more serious.
We have been married for over three years now and she looks after me with more sincerity and devotion than I ever had in my previous marriages. We live in a rural village next to her family who all consider this May-December union normal. I do not deceive myself into thinking I am physically attractive to her. I provide security as well as stability within the extended family I am now a part of along with respecting the culture and customs of the region. I receive reciprocal respect and can truthfully say that I am happy and content for the first time in my life. I have not consumed any alcohol for three years and am now at peace in knowing that when I do pass on, there will be people around me that actually care.
I realize this is a long letter, but I wanted speak out in support of the Thai women (and answer the skeptics if you choose to print this letter). There are many good Thai women if you take the time to become acquainted with them and especially her family. Since life’s priorities are different in this country, even old men have a second chance at life.
Happy in Isaan

Dear Happy in Isaan,
Hillary is always pleased to hear about happy people. In this business, it is easy to fall into thinking that every farang is only living here with a ‘short time’ attitude, while bemoaning their fate. This is indeed a wonderful country and “even old men have a second chance at life” as you point out. The problem comes if these same “old men” seize at every floating straw, instead of waiting for the barge to come down the stream. You have the correct attitude when you write, “There are many good Thai women if you take the time to become acquainted with them.” The problem is the ‘short timers’ won’t take the time to get to know the lady and end up moaning for a much longer time. I am very glad you have found your second chance and are enjoying being in a two way relationship. In truth, the most important phrase in your letter is “reciprocal respect”. Without that, there is not a real relationship. I hope your skeptics are now answered.


Camera Class: Caveat Emptor! A true tale

by Harry Flashman

John Weinthal, the Down-under motoring correspondent, is a versatile chap. Not only does he evaluate motor cars, but he photographs them as well. Having briefly looked at the photography column from a few weeks back, he decided that the convenience afforded by the new credit-card sized digital point and shooters was what he needed. Slip it in the shirt pocket for use when needed. Point, shoot, and he had it! However, it was not quite as simple as it sounded. Here are the (photographic) Words from Weinthal.

Time was that instruction books could be more fun than the product involved.

A long forgotten Mazda of the ’60s bore a plate advising that the tyres should be rotated – i.e., moved front to rear and side to side - every 50 miles!

Such instruction books, and a variety of official and semi-official signs, even generated their own language name of Engrish.

Kid yourselves not that such times passed with the turn of the millennia.

A recently purchased mini-digital camera (a totally dud product as it transpired, but we’ll get to that later) advises under the heading Maintenance and Preservation ‘Clean the camera boy...’

The who? Boy or body, this was only the beginning.

The Contents list begins: ‘Thank you for purchasing our product, please read the manual carefully before using the product,’ (I did, in fact I could barely put it down). Read on: ‘to ensure that you can enjoy all the functions of the product and insure the product a long-term stable normal work, at the same time, please preserve the manual warily for checking in time in your using process.’

Interesting contents include ‘Browsing the magnifying photographs’ and ‘Revising exposal.’

Product features, it declares, include: high pixel shoot mode ‘achieving interpolation outputting’ and ‘Individual starting interface could be set with the shoot photographs, increasing the operation fun.’

Driver installation: ‘Process should not same fully in the different Windows system, but it is similar.’

Finally I found something I wish was true. While most cameras have a self-timer feature for delaying the shutter, this item has ‘self-shooting’. By God I wish it did. And I wish it had turned it on itself before I fell for the device.

The handbook and packaging declare it to be a product of FujiPro, Osaka Japan and the model is Superfine D8. Like an idiot I took this to be some relation to Fuji Photo Film Co Ltd, the makers of the excellent FinePix digital camera series, two of which have given me first class service over the past three years or so.

The worst thing is that this so called 8 megapixel creation cannot take a decent photo to save its, or my, life. When finally downloaded to the computer I saw the worst batch of out-of-focus, crazy colour messes ever seen.

God save me from impulse purchases. I had paid a lot for a new computer and was waiting a couple of hours while changes were made to adapt it to my specs. During that time, while becoming increasingly bored, I spotted this so-called camera and was silly enough to believe the sales pitch.

This not-Fuji Film phoney Fuji is a real dawg product - thankfully the instruction manual provided a modicum of merriment, but not enough to stop me revisiting the guys who sold it to me in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.

Now whilst John can write a very amusing story, there is a certain moral to this as well. John admits that he bought it on an impulse, which is never the best way to purchase anything. He thought he was buying a Fuji FinePix, but he was not. He also did not get the shop to demonstrate the capabilities of the camera, complete with throwing the pictures up on a TV screen, or at least a computer screen. This is something that I very strongly recommend.

Fortunately there was a happy ending to the tale of the phony Fuji. The shop gave John a full refund. But will he be a wiser shopper? Time will tell!


Dogs - Man’s best friend: Pinscher and Mastiff types – Breed group No.2

Nienke Parma

The second breed group, according the FCI classification, is divided in three sections: 1. Pinschers and Schnauzers, 2. Mollosoids, 3. Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs and other breeds. The Pinscher and Schnauzer have different varieties, such as the Dobermann, Dutch Smoushond, German Pinscher and the Miniature, Standard and Giant Schnauzer.

The Schnauzer is in fact the rough-haired variety of the Pinscher. Originally bred for catching vermin, these dogs need to be alert, quick, brave and consistent with a low pain threshold and stamina. They also need to be able to work independently, learn quickly, and have a strong bondage with house and property. Due to their secondary task, guarding house and property, they tend to bark quickly and can be a bit wary of strangers. Towards their own species they also aren’t always too social. However, for the family they normally are cheerful lively dogs. Due to their origin, this group should be carefully socialized with cats, rodents and poultry.

The Mollosoid originates most likely from the Tibetan Mastiff. Traders and armies took them further east and west. It was when they accompanied the Roman armies as war-dogs (approximately 2,000 years ago) that spread them around Europe leaving behind the ancestors of most of the Mollosoid breeds (St. Bernard, Great Dane, English Mastiff, Rottweiler, Boxer, English Bulldog, etc.). Next to their war tasks, such as carrying munitions, they helped with the hunt and guarded and defended the camps. They were big and strong and used a fighting technique different from other dog breeds. The Mollossoid bites and holds while tightening the grip, while other breeds bite then open and bite again. Through shaking and pulling they try to injure their opponent. For this, the damage done by a Rottweiler bite is so much bigger than when a Poodle or retriever bites. And, contrary to the general beliefs, the total number of Rottweiler bites is much lower than retriever and Poodle bites, both in America and Europe. Due to this biting technique some of these breeds (Boxer, Bulldog) were used in fights with, for example, bears, bulls or other dogs. Luckily, as a result of selective breeding the Mollosoid has become more manageable, though when challenged they still won’t hesitate to fight. Therefore, in many countries most of these breeds (exceptions are the Boxer and Rottweiler) are not allowed to join protection sports such as the Shutszhund. Mollosoids are generally calm, love peace and quietness (except the Boxer and Dogo Argentino), and are quite independent, brave and consistent. And although not quick as students, they are certainly capable of learning basic obedience. As good guard-dogs they won’t hesitate to fulfill their task. Maybe a bit intolerant with their own species but friendly towards people, if well-socialized (exception is the Fila Brasiliero).

The Swiss mountain dogs are closely related to the Mollosoids which shows in the appearance as well as in many behavior traits. Next to their main task of droving the herd to the summer-meadows, they also pulled carts and protected house and property. Generally, they are more extraverts and attached than their Mollosoid counterparts. They all guard well and are quite wary of strangers (although this is often due to improper socialization). Other characteristics are being fairly active, strong stamina, not quickly impressed, independent, likes to be outside, and a quick student.

To be continued.

For more information on dog issues, boarding, training or behavior please contact LuckyDogs: 09 99 78 146 or lucky4paws @yahoo.com

Caption: A Rottweiler (Photo from LuckyDogs)


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

In my last column, I promised that I would share and answer some more of the many questions that are sent to me.

Khun Ratchant, Doi Saket asks: I changed to Windows XP and I don’t like the look. Someone told me that I can change this but I don’t know how to do this.

Answer: You can personalize your Windows desktop and many people display a favorite photo as the desktop wallpaper or change the screensaver to display a personal message. You can even use a theme from the Plus! Pack, which includes custom sounds and cursors. Nothing, however, is nearly as much fun as setting up your own Windows skin.

So what is a skin? A skin is a totally customized user interface. Not everyone realizes it, but every part of the look of the Windows screen can be customized. Program windows don’t have to have straight Title Bars and Close Buttons don’t have to be red or show a cross on them. The Start button doesn’t have to be green and it doesn’t have to say Start. See what I mean? To change the way Windows looks, apply a new skin to it.

This is like to putting a new case over your mobile phone but far more powerful, fun and, sometimes, more destructive.

If you’d like to see a skin at work without committing your Windows computer to a wholesale change, start up Windows Media Player which is also skinnable. Choose View > Skin Mode or press Control + 2. You should see your player (with standard skin). To return to Full mode, press Control + 1. Now choose View > Go To > Skin Chooser and you can select one of the listed skins to use. You can also use Tools > Download > Skins to find and download more skins.

You will notice that everything that is so easily found in the regular Windows Media Player window looks different. Pressing Control + 1 will get you back to the familiar Windows Media Player interface where you can change back.

If you’re not up to the challenge of playing with skins and probably having to undo problems with badly behaved ones, then proceed with caution.

If you plan to try to change Windows skins then back up your important files before you begin and back up your registry using Regedit (choose File, Export to do this), and create a System Restore point so you can restore your system to its previous configuration if things go horribly wrong.

Perhaps the best-known skins management program is WindowBlinds from Stardock. You can find a free, limited-trial, download version which works with Windows XP and 2000 at www.stardock.com/products. The full version works with Windows 98/Me/2000 and XP.

Whether you create your own or use a ready made skin provided by Windows or WindowBlinds, you can return your screen to your favorite Windows theme. Choose Unload WindowBlinds from the Advanced Configuration dialog or choose Start > All Programs > Object Desktop > WindowBlinds > Unload WindowBlinds. The trial version of WindowBlinds is just that, a trial version, so if you like the effect and can’t live without it, dip into the piggy bank and pay the $US19.95 ($28.50) to get the full version.

Sarah of Mae Rim sent me this question: I was told that I can add a start up sound to my notebook. How do you do this?

Answer: If you’d like to have your computer speak to you every morning when you start it up, you can attach a voice message to your Windows start-up screen using Sound Options in the Control Panel. Create a message or find a track you like, and then tell Sound options where this is and link it to the Startup Sound option.

To get another voice to speak a message, visit w ww.naturalvoices.att.com/demos and type your message in the box. The website automatically creates a sound file containing your message in your choice of formats such as .wav for a PC and .aiff for a Mac. Better still, it will speak French, Spanish, German and can even mimic a British accent.

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.


Money Matters: Wall Street’s crystal ball reveals overcast in 2005 (Part one)

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

The Wall Street Journal has found that Wall Street gazed into its crystal ball for 2005 and likes what it sees - sort of. 10 leading strategists have indicated how they think financial markets will perform this year. While the general consensus is positive for stocks in 2005, the strategists see several clouds lurking. Skyrocketing U.S. budget and trade deficits, tepid job growth and weakening corporate profits are all current trends that could hurt the economy and stocks, although the gap between that perception and the analysts’ forecasts are strangely discordant.

The biggest fear of all, WSJ found, is inflation. The Federal Reserve raised its target on the federal-funds rate five times in 2004 to 2.25% in order to keep a clamp on inflation. Yields on long-term Treasury bonds, though, ended the year almost exactly where they started – surprising since bond yields typically rise in sync with inflation to make them more attractive to investors who may be lured towards equities. To MBMG this is a clear indication that the bond markets don’t believe the inflation dangers. Neither do we. Recession is the most obvious danger that spooks us.

Analyst Average / MBMG View

Dow Jones IA 10783.01/8985.0

NASDAQ Composite Index 2175.44/1400.00

Standard & Poor’ 500 Index 1211.92/1075.00

10-year Treasury yield 4.222%/4.000%

Federal-funds rate 3.000%/3.000%

Euro/Dollar $1.3567/$1.415

Crude Oil $43.450/$42.000

Gold $437.50/$455.00

“We’ve almost had a miracle in the bond market this year,” says Phil Roth, chief technical strategist at Miller Tabak in New York, one of the more bearish forecasters we spoke with. Roth thinks that miracle could turn into a curse for investors if interest rates take off in 2005 as the Fed tries to head off any rapid acceleration in inflation.

Not everybody agrees. Edward Yardeni, chief investment strategist at Oak Associates in Akron, Ohio, says inflation will remain tepid next year due to increasing globalization. “Free trade is another way of saying more competition, and there’s more competition with globalization, which offsets inflationary pressures,” he says. He predicts the 10-year Treasury yield will remain relatively stable, floating between 4% and 5%. We expect to see rates touch 5% before falling away sharply as the economy slows down.

Another recurring theme: cold, hard cash. Most analysts expect companies to start spending in 2005 at a quicker pace than they have in recent years. Indeed, we’ve already seen companies unleash some of their hoards in a wave of dividend increases, stock buybacks and mergers and acquisitions. However, we very much doubt that they also will use that cash to start hiring more workers.

We’ll be looking at each analyst’s calls (and why we’re so at odds with them) in the following weeks.

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Alan Hall on [email protected]

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Alan Hall on [email protected]


Life in the Laugh Lane: Stop, eat and get gas?

Asian oral adventures

by Scott Jones

In America, I had a limited definition of the word “food.” The most sinister items were found at state fairs where you could eat almost anything fried on a stick. You never really knew what was inside the crispy yellow crust until you took your first bite. Here they actually do have anything fried, dried or live, on a stick, in a bag or squirming in a pile: lizards, bugs, spiders, every molecule of the chicken, fish balls. (I didn’t even know fish had balls.)

Stop, eat and get gas?

Before living in Asia, I’d never really considered certain things could be food. Fried dog was in the same category as a fire hydrant. Or a Buick. They eat lots of dog in Vietnam. Hearing about a dog delicacy is enough for me. I love to walk the dog but it’s not spelled “wok the dog.”

In Hanoi, my room service menu had a “Special Dishes” category with sea crab, swimming crab, cuttlefish, clam, turtle, snake, eel, buffalo meat, frog, bird meat, fresh water fish, and “many kinds’ sea fish,” but it was the “Forest Specialties” that truly set my hotel in a class of its own: deer, wild boar and weasel. Yes, weasel, delivered right to my room! No preparation descriptions. Weasel sushi? I ordered two snakes and a weasel to go, planning to savor an eel and buffalo omelet in the morning. This fancy restaurant had a splendid list of entrees I didn’t dare order, but plan to rush back during my next life as a goat and try them all...

Russia’s Broiled Meat (Assorted wild animals from Chernobyl, perhaps? Cooked in the woods until they glow in the dark?) Undercook Veal With Lemon (“Gee whiz, thanks for undercooking the pork. I like my worms lightly warmed.”) Frog’s Trotter clip In Flour Fried (I’ve tried the legs, but “trotter clips?” Are these very big frogs? Do you ride them in?) -Desiccation Chicken (Desiccation is not a restaurant word. The “Dried Up As A Result Of Removing Water” Chicken does not whip taste buds into a ravenous frenzy. Considering all the spelling errors on the menu, they may have meant “Defecation Chicken.”)

Baked Thick of Chicken (I’m thick of chicken. We had it jutht latht night and I’m tho theriothly thick of it.) Enterocoelous Of Chicken With Fried Baby Fresh New Corn (The word “enterocoelous” was not in my Vietnamese Phrase Book. It sounds like a fatal disease. Maybe it’s the technical term for Bird Flu. Do you think “baby fresh new” is repeatedly redundant over and over and over again?) Stick A Lobster in Cistern (“Mr. Waiter, do I have to eat it in the cistern or do you take it out for me?”) Dictionary says - Cistern: a container in which water is stored, esp. one connected to a toilet or in the roof of a house. This could certainly have been Defecation Lobster. Although very clear regarding “cistern,” no online dictionaries mentioned “enterocoelous” or “trotterclip.” They must be local words. Very local to this restaurant only. After this myriad of oral temptations, dog started to sound relatively tasty.