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

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness:  Working people not exercising enough

Thailand is turning into a nation of couch potatoes, according to the director-general of the Department of Health, who expressed concern that people of working age were taking insufficient exercise.

In a speech to mark the 53rd anniversary of the department’s foundation, Dr. Somyos Charoensak said that while surveys suggested that 60 percent of Thais exercised regularly, the figure for people of working age was significantly lower.

In order to address the problem, he advocated that working people undertook muscle exercises while in the workplace, walked to work as much as possible, and used stairs, rather than office lifts. He stressed that exercise not only has health benefits, helping to prevent conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure and bowel cancer, but also helps save money. (TNA)


The Doctor's Consultation: More on wonky knees!

by Dr. Iain Corness

A few weeks ago I wrote on Osteo-arthritis of the knee, and this produced this letter from one of the readers. “Dear Dr Corness, I always enjoy reading your column. I was especially interested in the one about knee joints. In 1994 (I was 49 years old) I developed pains in my knee joints, which were so severe that even walking up a slight incline was agony. I also developed severe pains in my wrists, so much so that picking up a bunch of keys was agony. My hairdresser told me he had similar problems but now used a tablet containing 1500 mg Glucosamine and 1200 mg of Chondroitin (marine Chondroitin) and had no problems. I started taking this and within two weeks my pains had completely vanished and they only returned once, when I ran out of tablets. I took this supplement until 2001, when I came to Thailand and hoped that the warmer climate here would do the job of the tablets. I have since had no problems. Many people do not agree with the use of supplements, but a survey was carried out at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey and they agreed that the taking of Glucosamine did show benefits. In conclusion I was surprised that you did not mention this supplement as an alternative to injections or surgery. Regards, Russ.”

This is a most interesting letter as it brings up an immediate couple of points that should be examined. The first is, from the description, I am not convinced that Russ was suffering from ‘osteo’ arthritis, but rather ‘Rheumatoid’ arthritis. This form of arthritis is noted for spontaneously settling and then flaring up again, and many factors seem to be involved with this. Look upon rheumatoid arthritis as a form of inflammation in the joint, whilst osteo-arthritis is more of a ‘degeneration’ in the joint.

The other point is that whilst it is undoubtedly possible for all kinds of compounds to affect arthritis (rheumatoid in particular), it is incorrect to then generalize and suggest that this form of medication is good for everyone. To prove the efficacy (or otherwise) of prescription drugs takes more than one expat and a hairdresser. Yours is called ‘anecdotal’ evidence. True ‘hard’ evidence needs enormous studies, following rigid protocols where the results produced by active substances are compared to those from non-active (placebo) substances.

For example, a group in Norway, Research Fellow Jan Magnus Bjordal, Professor Anne Elisabeth Ljunggren, Associate Professor Atle Klovning, and Professor Lars Slordal, wanted to look critically at Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), including cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitors, in osteo-arthritic knee pain and reported their findings in the British Medical Journal.

They began with a literature search from 1966 to April 2004. They crosschecked reference lists in systematic reviews, searched conference abstracts, and talked to clinical experts. They included papers in English, German, and Scandinavian.

The trials only included patients whose knee osteoarthritis had been verified by clinical examination according to the American College of Rheumatology criteria and by X-ray. All trials had to be randomised, double blinded (neither the patient nor the doctor were to know which were the ‘active’ tablets), placebo controlled, and of parallel design. Pain intensity had to be scored on a universal pain scale. The number of patients exceeded 10,000, and only after that could they come up with some ‘hard’ data.

However, I am not saying that non-medical treatment does not work for certain individuals, but I myself do have to follow current medical protocols in my writings. In the meantime, I am glad that your knees continue to be settled!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I took her home for some slap and tickle, she brought her electric toothbrush and left it in my bathroom. On her next visit she had her electric hair curlers and electric hair drier. On subsequent visits she brought her electric clock radio, lap top computer, oscillating fan, vibrator, chargers for her digital camera and mobile phone, microwave oven, plasma television screen complete with X box and games, CD player, DVD player, popcorn maker, jug and her rice cooker. Tonight she has carried in her electric keyboard and a noisy electric drum kit. I was not looking for any on-going relationship, a one night stand would have been enough, but now all of the power outlets in my apartment have been taken up with her vast collection of electrical gadgets. I hate to think how much my next power bill will be. It is only my fear of the electric chair that prevents me from strangling her. Watt do you suggest I do?
Mighty Mouse

Dear Mighty Mouse,
You do get yourself into some shocking situations, endangering your happy Ohm, my smooth grey furry Petal. I can see how this power point problem would be revolting for someone as sensitive as yourself. However, I would not worry too much about your electric bill. Since most Thai houses or apartments have 2.5 amp fuses and 1.5 amp wiring, the place will fuse long before the electricity meter goes incandescent. In the meantime I suggest you enjoy the plasma TV and X box, eat the popcorn and stay cool under the fan.
Dear Hillary,
Nit and Ying (the adorable wee Smartie bandits) have returned and so we popped down to Percy’s Puds the other day for a celebratory nosebag. Pattie pie for Nit, Rice pud for Ying and I tried the stuffed Beanteddy with diced Blackadder con turnip. I had my crumpet later! Percy would like to point out but never mind. Chocolate pud for you, Hillary?
Mistersingha

Dear Mistersingha,
Confabulating again, aren’t we. Haven’t been taking our tablets again, have we? Upon receipt of the promised champagne and chocolates I can recommend a friendly brain surgeon, skilled in pre-frontal lobotomies. He can help, I am sure.

Dear Hillary,
Thanks for airing my self-adoration letter, thus spreading the wonderfulness of me to an even wider public. Incidentally, I’m quite sure by your spell-bound expression, that you were aware of my awesome presence as we brushed shoulders outside your office the other day. As I’ve worn out my camera taking adulatory photographs of myself, an artist pal now accompanies me to capture heart stopping moments, such as that, and I’m quite sure you will appreciate his talent by way of this one of you and scrumptious me. By the way, I am hoping for a ‘first’ - an illustration in your column by way of the editor giving less space to the fifth division marble-rolling results, thus giving readers more of the most talked about Agony Aunt column in Asia, which in turn will make me the most talked about hunk in the eastern hemisphere as I rightfully deserve. Humbly,
Nairod Remraf.

Dear Nairod,
Did we brush shoulders the other day? What was I wearing so that I can burn it? I would be afraid of catching whatever disease you have got, and it certainly isn’t humility, is it Petal. Your artist friend also has taken more than slight artistic license. I would never wear my hair like that, and champagne is never held where it might get hot. Champagne is always chilled, Petal. And the dress! What is he thinking of? My Coco Chanel and Dior numbers (made in China as I can’t afford the real thing on my salary) do not have random flowers on them. Sorry to disappoint, but I have published both photographs and illustrations before, and the marble-rolling championships too. Were you there? Such fun and excitement!


Camera Class: Time exposures produce great pictures

by Harry Flashman

How many times have you used the “time exposure” facility on your camera? Probably never if you are like most weekend photographers! However, you are missing out on some great and different photographs.

Asking around in camera clubs, the usual reason given for not trying time exposure photography is that it is technically too difficult and it is too hard to work out the exposures. Read this week’s column and you will find that it is not at all difficult.

Let’s look at the “too technical” situation first. There is really nothing technically difficult about time exposure photography at all. A camera is purely a device that lets a certain amount of light fall onto sensitized film for a predetermined amount of time. This is the old “f8 at 1/60th” sort of routine. The number of the “f” stop (the aperture) tells you how large the hole is that lets the light in, and the 1/60th denotes how long the hole was left open. Sounds technical - but it’s not!

Way back, when photography was in its infancy, the film material was so insensitive that the exposure times were nowhere near as “short” as today. 1/60th was unheard of - it was more like six days at f8 in the days gone by! However, with today’s super-sensitive film materials and printing papers you can get away with much shorter time exposures and you don’t even need to be accurate any more. There is margin for error both in the exposure of the film and in the printing of the photograph, which works in the photographer’s favour. Near enough is good enough!

What equipment do you need for time exposure photography? Well, a camera is a good start, but it has to be one with “T” or “B” settings. The “T” setting stands for time exposure - one “click” opens the shutter, the second “click” closes it. “B” originally stood for “bulb” and the way that works is by holding the shutter release down keeps the shutter open until you take your finger off, which closes it. Why two settings? Simple, use “B” for time exposures up to a minute and “T” for longer ones (mainly because your finger will go numb holding the button down for 20 minutes!).

Film stock to use? The newer 400 ASA films are fine (but you can use anything, I generally just use the standard 200 ASA film in the camera). Now if you have read about time exposures you will come across the phrase “reciprocity failure” with long time exposures. Ignore it! Give up reading! It’s photo industry techo-speak and won’t stop you getting good pictures, it just changes the colours a bit.

The last thing you need is a tripod, unless you are good at standing motionless for twenty seconds or so. You should have one by now anyway, even if it is just one of those small ‘table-top’ ones that folds up and slips in your camera bag.

The important point to grasp is that all time exposure photography is “hit and miss”. There’s no real way anyone can tell you exactly “f8 and 24 seconds”. There’s too many variables, but all you have to do is to take the same scene or picture with a few different exposure times - one of them will be right. Believe me!

Here’s the rough guides. In all of these the film is ASA 200 and the aperture (f stop) is set on f8. To take a street scene at night, try 2 seconds, 4 seconds and 8 seconds. For the interior of a room, lit with ordinary light bulbs, try 5 seconds, 10 seconds and 20 seconds. To take a picture, just before dawn try 5, 10 and 20 seconds. Now, for a completely dark, night landscape (or seascape) try 30 seconds, 1 minute and 2 minutes.

Make a note of the order your time exposures were shot in, and jot down the “best” result after you get your films back. Sure, the colours will be strangely different - but if you wanted a “normal” shot you’d have taken it in daylight, wouldn’t you? Try time-exposing yourself this weekend!


Dogs - Man’s best friend: Terriers – Breed group No. 3

Nienke Parma

Terriers were originally bred for carrying out the important function of pest control. Their task was to destroy small mammals that made their homes below ground, by 1 entering the burrows of their prey, confronting and killing them, and 2 entering the burrows of their prey forcing them to bolt, so that they can be killed above the ground by the hunters, or 3 killing their prey when it comes above ground.

The specialization of the terrier breed depended on the type of quarry it needed to hunt and attack. For example, the short-legged terriers were mainly bred for small prey. So, the Manchester Terrier’s main task is destroying rats, and the West highland white Terrier (Westi), Cairn terrier and Scottish Terrier for following the prey into their hiding places, and through growling and barking forcing them out. The long-legged terriers usually hunt above ground, and walked along with the horses. The Airedale Terrier (the largest under the Terrier breeds) is specialized in joining the hunt for otters, and the Fox Terrier in joining the hunt for foxes.

Most vermin-controlling earth dogs are terriers, but not all of them. Dachshunds (group 4), some Pinschers and the Schnauzers (group 2) are also bred to control vermin. And not all terriers are vermin-controlling earth dogs either. The Bull-Terrier and American Staffordshire Terriers, for example, were created as fighting dogs. The Yorkshire, Australian Silky and English Toy Terrier’s main task were to keep their owners’ company.

Due to their tasks, terriers need to be brave, full of temperament, very energetic, persistent and with stamina. A terrier that withdrew due to pain or another reason was unsuitable for the task and would be culled (a ‘nice’ word for killed). This resulted in strong, independent, and combative terriers with a low sense of pain. Terriers are in general very playful and cheerful. And as a result of them vocally warning the hunter of the place where the prey was hiding underground, they do tend to bark a lot. Many have a genetic passion for digging. And some terrier breeds are little tolerant towards other dogs.

Although today’s breeding is mainly focused in the exterior, much of the terrier’s original characteristics are still present in most terriers. And, although, the majority of the terriers make excellent pets, this is something that should be kept in mind when deciding to buy ‘such a little cute’ dog. It is not for nothing that some terrier owners refer to their little companions as ‘terrorists’.

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


Money Matters: Wall Street’s Crystal Ball Reveals Overcast in 2005

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Time to look at more analysts’ views and the basis for these views - 3 more lambs to the slaughter please:

PNC Advisors
Jeff Kleintop, chief investment strategist
Pittsburgh
S&P 500: 1275 to 1325
10-year yield: 5%

Mr. Kleintop points out that while stocks have had a decent run recently, the broader market remains far below the peaks reached in 2000. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, he notes, must rise more than 25% to reach its March 24, 2000, high of 1527. But don’t expect the S&P to regain all of that territory next year, he says. Mr. Kleintop expects the broad index to end in between 1275 and 1325, a decent return of about 8% for the year. He recommends investors put 65% of their assets into stocks and 30% into bonds. “We lean toward large-capitalization stocks and have a bias toward the growth style of investing,” he says.

MBMG cannot understand the mental processes on the Street sometimes. Once a bubble has been punctured and we’re starting the downturn, the reasoning that the market must go back up now because it’s 25% below the peak staggers us by its simplicity. Halfway down a slide is only halfway down, Mr. Kleintop, and doesn’t indicate that a change of direction is imminent.

A.G. Edwards
Stuart Freeman, chief equity strategist
St. Louis
S&P 500: 1270 to 1300; DJIA: 11600
Real GDP: 3.25% to 3.5%
Fed-funds: 3.5%
10-year yield: 5 %

Mr. Freeman expects corporate profits and consumer spending to slow down in 2005 – and that’s not necessarily bad for stocks, he says. If spending and corporate growth get out of hand, he says, investors have to start worrying about inflation and higher interest rates. Such fears held back stocks in 2004, he says.

Moderate consumer spending and declining profit growth, therefore, should be “more favorable for U.S. equities” in 2005, he says, as corporations increase capital spending and add new jobs. As the environment ripens for equities, investors will be drawn toward large-cap stocks and away from small caps, Mr. Freeman says. “We’re into a period of about five years of small-cap out-performance, and that’s at the longer end of the cycle,” he says.

Whither inflation? Mr. Freeman forecasts core inflation of 2.5% for 2005, since the economy isn’t “going to get the impact from oil prices that we saw in 2004” and a declining worker productivity, according to government data, should slow growth.

MBMG re-iterates its disbelief at the Street’s inability to read the signs. The facts are there, but they’re being ignored. How a slowdown for an economy teetering on the verge of recession and unable to service its debt burden could be interpreted as anything other than disastrous makes no sense to us.

Standard & Poor’s
Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist
New York
S&P 500: 1300; NASDAQ: 2360
Real GDP: 3.6%; CPI: 2.3%
Crude Oil: $39 a barrel

The weakening consumer also crops up in the outlook from S&P investment strategist Sam Stovall. The consumer will “support economic growth,” but won’t lead it, he says, citing an increasingly worrisome “mountain of debt” consumers have built up in recent years.

Much like other strategists, Mr. Stovall expects businesses to start spending the cash that’s been piling up. One result will be a sharp increase in equipment investing, which he expects to grow near 11% next year. And that should translate into job growth as companies staff up to meet the new orders.

One of the primary risks to growth next year, he says, is a return of crude oil to $50 a barrel or more and a freefall in the dollar, which could cause a spike in inflation. Mr. Stovall expects the CPI to rise to 2.3% by the end of the year. But when push comes to shove, he says, it’s more likely that it will go higher than lower. “All of the major economies in the world are expected to rise in 2005,” he says, “And that should put pressure on prices.”

MBMG would love to know why on Earth any businesses are going to invest so heavily to chase consumers who are in debt up to their necks, having their properties foreclosed left, right and centre, losing jobs by the day and seeing their real incomes fall.

More victims to come in the final part of our survey.

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: Once Upon a Menu: Part One

by Scott Jones

My public bus stops for a half hour in a speck of a Vietnamese town so we can eat and excrete. Lunch money (6000 dong = 17 baht) is included in the price of the bus. My choices in the 6000 dong section are limited, but at least they’re all cooked and the menu has English subtitles: COOKED RICE PART (Which rice part? How many parts does rice have?). COOKED RICE PLATE (Plate for sure, maybe no rice). FRIED COOKED RICE (in case it’s not cooked enough, fry it). COOKED RICE CHICKEN (which chicken part? I’ve seen them completely disassembled in the market). COOKED RICE IN FRYING WITH PIECED SHIMP (whatever).

I’ll have one frog leg with one taste: chicken.

I quickly order the Cooked Rice Chicken because it vaguely makes sense and I’ve got a lot of writing to do. The rest of the menu is a mind- and tongue-boggling gold mine of oral options. The waitress does not understand why I won’t give the menu back or why I’m copying things down in my little black book. I try to assure her I’m not stealing their entree ideas, but it’s a tricky concept to communicate with my tiny collection of Vietnamese words: hello, goodbye, a few numbers and “Where’s the toilet?” which will be essential if I eat any of the following dishes: In the “Seafood” section, perhaps meaning whatever they see, they’ll eat: SEA PRODUCTS SOUP (anything from the ocean qualifies as an ingredient). HALF-COOKED CUTTLEFISH WITH TAMARIND (which part do they cook? “I’ll take the left side cooked, right side raw, thanks”). COOKED BRINE (“I’d like my salt water cooked, roasted, then lightly battered and fried, please”). COOKED BRINE WITH FISH IN BOWL ON PO (“Who is Po? My waitress? Can I have Po in a bowl with fish on the side?”). THICKED EEL WITH SOJA CHEESE (Life is too short to eat thin eel. Force-feed it some cheese). FRIED FROG WITH FIVE TASTES (1. Head fried 2. Neck thicked 3. Back cooked 4. Buttocks half-cooked 5. Legs raw.).

And in the “Chicken” section, meaning winged anything: TEARED CHICKEN AND CRAB SOUP (“Do you tear it right at the table or was the chicken in tears when you threw it in?”). TURNED CHICKEN WITH FLAGRANT KNOTWEED (FLagrant, not FRagrant, and knotweed does not sound good). FRIED CHICKEN SKIN WITH BRINE (“Before you even bring it to the table, put it in a doggie bag. Better yet, just give it to the dog.”). TURNED, GRILLED, ROASTED OR FRIED PIGEON OR SPARROW (“I’ll have all of the above, but only the drumsticks. Give me 300.”). BRITTLEFRIED SPARROW (Brittle is a bad food word. It’s used to describe old bones. Brittlefried is even worse). BRITTLEFRIED SPARROWFRIED SPARROW WITH BRINE (“May I have a fork, a knife and a hammer, please”).

Tune in next week for our exciting menu conclusion: Vegetables, Desserts and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Specialties, for special people, a group that does not include me!