Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: Ban Sabai Spa Village signs co-operation with Lanna Hospital

Lanna Hospital and Ban Sabai Spa Village will join forces in the future to make Chiang Mai even more of a spa destination for Thais and foreigners.

Chantana Jarusrenee, head division business development, Lanna Hospital (middle left) with Chitra Klanprayoon, managing director, Ban Sabai Spa Village (middle right), and Dr. Eugene Hubscher from Switzerland, Hannes Froelich, director Ban Sabai Spa Village and Albert Schmidt.

The main objective is education on general health subjects and how massages, body masques, healthy food and beverages, relaxing music and aromas and flavors all improve health.

A joint agreement was signed by Chitra Klanprayoon from Ban Sabai Spa Village and Chantana Jarusrenee, the head division business development manager of Lanna Hospital Chiang Mai.


The Doctor's Consultation: To be or not to be - insured

by Dr. Iain Corness

This is a perennial question. And a perennial headache for private hospitals and those who end up in them! This is a subject I have covered before, but well worth covering again.

As we get older, insurance becomes even more of a pressing item. One of my friends dropped in the other day with an amusing piece about the benefits of getting older. It had such gems as “In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first” and “Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.”

At the outset, I must say I have never been one out of whom insurance agents grow fat. It has always been my feeling that there was something unbalanced about my attendant hangers on (AKA children) getting rich at my expense when I meet my final demise. When you really analyse it, you don’t even get to enjoy your own wake! No, if anyone is going to benefit from my paying life insurance premiums every year, it is going to be me!

I have also been very lucky with my choice of careers. Being a medico does have advantages. If I couldn’t fix my skin rash or whatever, I could always ring a classmate who could (or should) be able to. Medications and drugs? Again no worries, just a quick raid of the samples cupboard in my surgery and I had everything I needed.

What about hospital insurance? I passed on that one too. After all, the only foreseeable problems that could stop me working were massive trauma following a road accident or suchlike, or a heart attack. In either case you don’t care where you are as long as there are wall to wall running doctors and plenty of pain killers. In Australia, the “free” public hospital system is fine for that.

So I blithely carried on through life insuranceless. I did spend one night in hospital with a broken leg 30 years ago, so as regards personal medical costs versus proposed insurance premiums, I was still miles in front.

And then I came to Thailand. Still I blithely carried on, after all, I was ten foot tall and bullet proof. Then a friend over here had a stroke and required hospitalisation. Said friend was four years younger than me and I was forced to review the ten foot bullet proof situation to find I was only five foot eleven and my kryptonite had expired. Thailand was a completely new ballgame.

Enquiries as to hospital and medical costs showed that they were considerably less than the equivalent in Oz, but, and here’s the big but, there’s no government system or sickness benefits to fall back on. Suddenly you are walking the tightrope and there’s no safety net to stop you hitting terra firma.

So I took out medical insurance. Still it was no gold plated cover. But it was enough to look after me if I needed hospitalisation, and that came sooner than I imagined. I had always subscribed to the “major trauma” theory, but two days of the galloping gutrot had me flat on my back with the IV tube being my only life-line to the world. We are only mortal - even us medico’s.

Do you have medical insurance? Perhaps it is time to chat to a reputable insurance agent! Yes, reliable insurance agents and reliable insurance companies do exist, but you need help through the minefield.

You also need help when it comes to filling out the application forms, in my opinion. And you also need to be 100 percent truthful. Yes, insurance companies will check on your records, and if it is found that you have been sparing with the truth over pre-existing conditions, expect a shock at settling up time at the cashier’s desk.

Remember too, that just because you have an insurance card does not automatically signify that ‘everything’ is covered. This is why private hospitals will ask you for a deposit on admission. If the insurance company later verify that you are indeed covered for that ailment or condition, then you’ll get it back, but you have to prove that you are covered, not the other way round!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
Now then, the top o’the morning my dearest sweet Hillary. It’s the first time I’ve written to you Hillary because I have a serious matter to discuss and I believe you can help. As all the readers are aware you are a connoisseur of bon bons and the finest champagne and your advice on all matters involving social etiquette is sought the length and breadth. Hillary can you tell me why is it, that with all the technical advances these days, that on my recent return visit to Ireland the place of my noble four fathers and my dear mother, God bless her in heaven, that when I board the pressurised cabernet airliner that they serve you.....wait for this ...WARM champagne? It has happened many times to me Hillary! I wish we could turn the clock back and bring back the glorious days of the Cunard Queens, they knew how to treat the ‘noblesse’.
When I could not stand it no more, Hillary, I asked, on the airliner, why in heavens name it had to be so, my question was directed to the Chief Butler, but he only talked some mumbo jumbo about sealed containers and duty free tax regulations. Well why not put in some duty free ice as well I say... what do you think Hillary?
Anyway, I must be off, as I have to practice the miracle of turning water into wine as the good Book describes. I can tell you I have it off pat in the reverse. Anyways I will keep practising, and as a sign of good faith in your advice, I will make a miraculous deposit for you too in the Soi of the Convent here in Bangkok.
I do look forward to receiving your reply to my letter.
I remain
Yours,
Charles De Cork Esq.

Dear Charlie,
Are you sure you haven’t written to me before? Your style reminds me of someone many years ago who wrote to me extolling their virtues, commodities that are very hard to find these days, I’m sure you’ll agree.
However, Charlie my Petal, your butler was quite correct in refusing to place ice in the champers. Really! All you have to do is put the bottle outside the plane for a minute or two, it’s minus 45 or something, enough to freeze the nurglers off a predatory puma, to coin a phrase.
Yes, I remember the Cunard Queens with great fondness too. Mind you, I’m working for Cunard these days. Very hard, indeed! Never got a minute to myself, but you know this, being busy yourself performing the wine into water ritual, though I would hardly call it a miracle, Charlie. I can even do it myself on the odd occasion that somebody actually sends me some wine to practice with. And before you ask, Spy Cooler doesn’t cut it, Petal.
I am interested in the fact that your four fathers came from Ireland, as I presume you just had a small spelling mistake in your letter, and what with Irish blood and all. Which father did you choose, and was your mother quite sure that you were hers? It’s never too late to look into these things.
Dear Hillary,
I am fed up for all this (gentlemen) complaining about the bar girls, I think they all should be pay for a part by the social security and retirement funds of the rich country, because they act like social workers helping all this old people to finish their life in joy and happiness, helping them to shorten their life in making those gentlemen overdrinking and one night difficult sporting course, they are holy girl. Sorry for my english (sic) but you should do your column in French. By the way Hillary which kind of woman are you the one with panty or the other one?
Hercule Poirot

Dear ‘ercule,
Oh I do like Frenchmen, they are so gallant and so wonderfully biased! Why should I do the column in French, my Petal? The newspaper is in English, and that’s English with a capital E, not the lower case one. You Frenchmen just can’t forget the Battle of Agincourt, and other such inglorious moments for La Belle France, have you. Sorry, ‘ave you?
I think I managed to see your point, but I couldn’t quite grasp it! Are you championing the girls because they are working like social workers or geriatric nurses, or are you suggesting that they are being instrumental in strengthening the argument for euthanasia? Or worse, are you accusing them of secretly carrying out the ritual euthanasia of elderly gentlemen in Thailand? I am sure that all the bar girls would agree with your proposal that they be partly funded by the retirement funds of rich nations. This might mean that fewer buffaloes get flogged to death (and elderly gentlemen likewise)!
Now then, you little tease, asking me what sort of a woman am I, and whether I wear panties? Oh, you are so naughty, you French! Of course I wear panties, but on special occasions I wear French knicks, otherwise I just wear English ones, in memory of the aforementioned Battle of Agincourt. Winners are grinners ‘ercule.


Camera Class: Songkran without fears or tears

by Harry Flashman

I will make no secret of the fact that I detest Songkran, that wonderful celebration of veneration of the ancestors that has degenerated into an excuse for acting out innate violence that leaves hundreds dead and thousands injured. However, I will admit that the first time I experienced this annual water throwing event, I too thought it was fun.

By the way, despite what you may be told, this is not a uniquely ‘Thai’ festival, but one that is celebrated in many countries in SE Asia, hence those who would like to flee must go further than the immediate neighboring countries!

As a visual spectacle it is definitely worth recording for posterity, but this should not be done at the expense of your camera equipment. As mentioned, this is a water festival, and cameras and thrown water (and powder and ice) do not mix. (For that matter, water throwing and alcohol do not mix either, which is just one of the reasons for the horrendous death toll.)

Since great volumes of water will be thrown (despite the fact that Thailand is in the throes of a drought) this does offer some great photo opportunities, but unfortunately also presents some great opportunities to permanently damage your expensive camera gear.

There are several ways around this problem. The first is to go all out and buy a Nikonos underwater camera at the cost of many thousands of baht. These are a wonderful underwater camera but for this instance - totally impractical, unless you want to stand at the side of the road in a full wet-suit!

The second way is to purchase a fancy plastic underwater housing for your own camera. Now these can range in price, depending on complexity. Built like a perspex box to house your camera, you can operate all the adjustments from the outside. These are not cheap either, and the cheapest in the range is literally a plastic bag with a waterproof opening and a clear plastic section for the lens. You open it up and literally drop your camera inside it and seal the bag. These can be purchased from major photographic outlets and I did spot one in a photo-shop for B. 750.

A third way is a waterproof disposable (yes, they do make them). Good for about three meters, so perfectly suitable for splashing water. If you can’t get one of those, then even the ordinary cheap disposables are a better option than getting your good camera gear doused. I must admit to having dropped one of these overboard one day and the boatman jumped in and rescued it. It survived the dip and the final pictures were fine. But neither I, nor the manufacturer, recommend this!

So now let’s get down to some serious photo techniques to get that magic Songkran shot. Since you are trying to capture the movement of the water, a slow shutter speed will help. Hand-held you are probably not going to get down below 1/30th, but you could try some at 1/15th, it’s not impossible, especially if you are using a wide-angle lens.

However, since you are trying to get far enough away to keep the camera dry, you may be forced to use the longer lenses which means you cannot hand-hold at even 1/30th. The answer here is to find a good vantage point, some distance from the action, and use a tripod.

If you are going down this route, then the best vantage point is a high one. First floor balconies get you high enough to escape the water, but not too high that you cannot get into the activity with a 150 mm lens or longer. Since you will be using a tripod, I would even set the shutter speed slower than 1/30th, and a few ‘experimental’ shots at 1/8th or even 1/4 of a second are worth trying. Remember that some ‘blurring’ denotes motion in the final photograph, and at Songkran there is plenty of activity.

Finally, “Chok di bi mai! May your camera stay dry!”


Money Matters: The China Syndrome

A five-dimension analytical model for deciding when (and when not) to purchase from the East (Part 1)

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

For one U.S. automotive supplier a few years ago, it seemed that purchasing components from China was the right thing to do - and quickly. manufacturers in virtually every industry were setting up shop in China; to read about it in the business press, every venture paid off.

The industrial manufacturer, though, discovered to its dismay that success in China was not a sure thing. Enticed by attractive price quotes, the manufacturer failed to make completely sure that its Chinese partners could live up to its technical and logistical requirements. When the Chinese suppliers struggled to meet production schedules, the manufacturer was forced to use expensive airfreight. Quality issues also surfaced; the suppliers lacked the skills to maintain process control and implement engineering changes. The combination of problems eroded the expected cost savings. Ultimately, the automotive supplier reduced its Chinese procurement effort.

With Western companies rushing to China to fill gaps or strengthen links across their supply chains, one particular part of their operations - procurement - deserves special scrutiny. If approached with a rigorous evaluation of product characteristics, Chinese component purchasing can be the right answer for optimal management of the supply chain. When not well planned and carefully analyzed, sourcing in China can be the source of woe.

Gold Rush

The China “gold rush” grew out of a dilemma. In recent years, when companies examined their P&Ls, most found that purchased material was the largest line item - typically 40 to 70 percent of the total cost of goods. In the face of relentless market pressure to keep prices down, procurement often became a prime target for cost reductions. But that well, for many companies, has begun to run dry. Thus, businesses are increasingly looking to non-domestic sources to meet cost reduction demands.

Asia, especially China, is the most apparent solution. It has the cheapest labour, a pro-business environment, a productive workforce, and strong government support for keeping domestic manufacturing operations as inexpensive as possible - a direct path to easy cost cutting.

The supply chain’s headlong tilt toward China can be seen in the percentage share of supplier contracts awarded in the past six years. In 1998, at one U.S. auto manufacturer, U.S. and Canadian companies garnered 62 percent of all quotes and supplier contracts, and Asian (primarily Chinese) outfits only 4 percent. By 2002, the two regions were just about equal, with each enjoying about 30 percent of supplier contracts awarded.

This trend is not even near its peak yet. By 2008, auto and industrial products companies will more than double their percentage of spending on components and materials in low-cost countries (LCCs), according to a recent Booz Allen Hamilton survey of purchasing executives. Moreover, apparel companies, which currently spend 50 percent of their procurement dollars in LCCs, say that within four years, these countries will provide virtually all of their material and supply needs. (See Graph) And for most companies, over half of the spending targeted for LCCs will be earmarked for China.

GRAPH

The Chinese experience can turn sour, though, when procurement managers fail to systematically assess the fit between the requirements for purchased components and the realities of the China-based supply chain. They can inadvertently increase their cost of operations and put revenue at risk - thereby compromising their profitability. Some commodities that are sourced in China, it turns out, can more wisely be procured from another low-cost region, or even from domestic sources.

Each of five critical dimensions must be examined for every prospective purchase of components and materials in order for a company to determine whether purchasing from China is the best decision. These dimensions include, naturally, manufacturing cost, but they add in transportation efficiency, lead time and scheduling stability, product design, and technical capabilities.

Using this analysis, we have found, for example, that production tooling (such as injection-moulded plastics and stamping dies, which are labour-intensive to manufacture and which have long product lead times) is perfect for Chinese procurement initiatives. By contrast, minimal labour requirements make China a bad bet for auto interior plastics and stamping, for example. Frequent product changes similarly rule the country out as a first choice for customized telecommunications equipment. Manufacturers in these industries would do better to consider low - labour - cost regions closer to home (such as Mexico for the U.S., or Eastern Europe for Western Europe), where they can realize a portion of the labour savings while maintaining tighter control on the supply chain.

Next week we’ll take an in-depth look at the 5 dimensions.

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: Songkranophobia. A motorcyclist’s lament

by Scott Jones

If you’re on a motorbike this week, it could be your last ride. Use your feet instead and get your hands on the biggest water cannon you can find. Songkran is right around the corner. Actually, it’s around every corner. It’s very wet, violent, gentle, unpredictable and insane like a rabid water buffalo. If you want to beat the heat, it’s a laugh on every lane.

The Thai New Year’s Festival Songkran (not to be confused with SongkraM which means “war” but I don’t understand the difference) is a national water fight between everyone and anyone with everything and anything: buckets, bowls and barrels of ice water, pails, pumps and hoses, water balloons, launchers, the world’s largest squirt guns and roving pick-ups filled with crazed bands hell-bent on soaking innocent bystanders. It celebrates the wild six-year olds that live in all of us. You still see remnants of its gentle past: folks respectfully pouring a bit of water and dabbing powder on each others shoulders and faces with a good-natured New Year greeting, like a communal baptism to wash away the old year. Being older than most of the revellers, some approach me with humble smiles and bowls of water for this traditional gesture. I patiently wait until they’re within striking range, then flip their bowl of water into THEIR face and run away cackling. (Hey, I’m their elder. It’s my prerogative. Maybe the six-year old takes over…Little Scooter From Hell.)

Unfortunately its violent presence puts countless people in the hospital and kills almost a thousand: 95 percent in motorcycle accidents. These “accidents” are normally the result of deliberate actions: bikers are blinded by buckets of water in the face or crash into a brick wall while swerving to avoid the wall of water thrown by a mob of kids in the street. (Considering the amount of alcohol consumed equals the quantity of water thrown, the bikers already may have been swerving.)

A few days before my first Songkran, I rode blissfully through the mountains when suddenly, overnight, the meek Thai kids turned into hyperactive hellions trying to liquidate me with various water weapons. Choosing the “safety” of the 4-lane highway for my journey home, I got a pail of water in the face from a passing truck at a 120 kph. Bap-dismal message: Stay alive. Stay off the bike.

You have several options during Water Wars. Leave the country or lock yourself in the bedroom. (Boring!) Shrink wrap your entire body in plastic. (Exotic!) Spend the week in a barrel of water. (Pickled!) Ride an elephant to work, better yet, rent one trained to spray with his trunk. (Safe and practical, yet aggressive!) Like the frenetic Loi Krathong Festival, if Songkran were in America, half the country would be arrested for disturbing the peace. Forget peace. Wear only a Speedo all week and get a piece of the action. I’ll be waiting for you with an industrial-strength water pistol and wearing only a condom.