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: Bangkokians wish for health more than wealth

Residents of Bangkok and its environs are a deeply conservative bunch, wishing for health above wealth and critical of the way in which traditional Thai New Year celebrations have been distorted, according to a poll published on April 11.

The ABAC poll, which interviewed 2,770 respondents, found that 78.1 percent attached importance to the Thai New Year, otherwise known as Songkran, and that 74.7 percent thought of Songkran as a time for asking for blessing from elders in the traditional manner.

And although Songkran is often thought of as a time of drunken abandonment, when revelers chuck buckets of water on each other, the poll found that 65.3 percent of respondents intended to ask blessing from their elders, 64.2 percent intended to give alms and make merit and 51.1 percent intended to pour water over Buddha images, in addition to the 46.1 percent who said that they would join in the general water-throwing.

And while 46.5 percent said that they were satisfied with the way that revelers threw water during the Songkran festivities, a significant 34.1 percent claimed to be dissatisfied, and large numbers of respondents expressed concern over the high accident and death rate during the holiday period.

Asked what blessings they would most like to receive to mark the Thai New Year, 37.4 percent mentioned good health, while 25.6 percent cited wealth and good luck, and 14.3 percent spoke of a good love life or family life.

From Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the largest number of respondents wanted a solution to the southern insurgency, while others spoke of a solution to debt problems and poverty. (TNA)

The Doctor's Consultation: Be Happy - and live to 110!

by Dr. Iain Corness

Can your personality determine your ailments? Yes it most certainly can. If you are happy, will you really live longer? After much recent research, including clinical studies, the researchers have the answers. Be happy and stay well. Be aggressive and get heart attacks and cancer.

Now that does not mean that all happy folk live to be 110 and the misery bags turn in their credit cards at age 45 - but there is enough evidence to show that your personality type influences the kinds of diseases you will get later in life.

However, this is research is really nothing new, it is more of a reinforcement of previous knowledge. In the times of Hippocrates, the healers were interested in the personality of the patient, because even then they felt that this had a bearing on the disease process. This conclusion was reached after observation of the patients. This combination of mind and body and disease is the basis for holistic healing, and even though Hippocrates and his healers did not have all our pharmaceutical treatments wonderful tests and MRI’s, they did treat the person, not just the disease.

So why do we fall ill in the first place? Is it a personal weakness, is it just “lifestyle” or just plain bad luck? Since I am not a great believer in “luck” be it good or bad, my leaning after many decades of medicine is towards a type of personal “weakness”. After all, you can take two people with the same lifestyle but one gets ill and the other does not. Why? Simply, the sick person was more susceptible than the other - in some way they had a pre-disposition or call it a “weakness”. Simplistic I know, but it seems to fit.

So what factors seem to be involved in bringing about the pre-disposition. Genetics are one, and do play an important part. If your parents are diabetic then you will most likely have the problem too, but it is not absolutely inescapable. The modern scientific studies with large numbers of people have come up with interesting statistics. One famous researcher, Eysenck, lumped us all into four main personality categories.

Type 1 have a strong tendency to suppress their emotions and tend towards “hopelessness” and are unable to deal with personal stress.

Type 2 people, on the other hand, are also unable to deal with personal stress, but react to life with anger and aggression.

Type 3 is less clear-cut with a mixture of all these personality traits.

Type 4 covers the optimistic and relaxed who deal much better with interpersonal stress.

Using these broad categories and looking at disease profiles that each type gets, returned some amazing facts. Type 1 was the cancer prone group, Type 2 got heart disease, Type 3 got both while Type 4 people were not prone to either cancer or heart disease. Can you see what’s coming next?

Eysenck did not stop there. He went on to show that when people modified their personality they also modified their disease profile. When you think about it, this is staggering stuff! By attention to your personality profile you can modify your disease profile!

The most significant personality trait was “anger”. Learn to modify your anger response (and this can be done) and you become less “at risk”. This is approaching Buddhist philosophy and “jai yen yen” - but you can modify your personality. That last sentence can make you live ten years longer, happier and disease free. Forget all the wonder cures, just look at yourself first! Hippocrates did more than say oaths!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
My heart went out to Winifred and Letty Gruntfuttock who were here on holiday and couldn’t understand why eligible gentlemen seemed to go for the younger nubile dusky Thai maidens instead of good solid British, jolly holly sticks, breeding stock, who could make delicious cucumber sandwiches.
My partner and I now live here in this wonderful Kingdom so it was more than holiday heartache that the eligible, in our eyes, gentleman seems to prefer younger nubile dusky Thai young men to us solid, well established, well heeled slightly older gentlemen. I mean being an ex chef I could whip up something more interesting than a cucumber sandwich. Move over “The Importance Of Being Earnest”, but all that is difficult to convey at a glance, however lingering, ness pas! (sic)
The solution to the problem is quite simple, the answer lies not in the soil but in MONEY and taste. Winifred and her sister should raise their sights and go for Thai gentlemen rather than for unappreciative English, they will find if they reward well they in turn will be rewarded beyond their wildest fantasies.
I mean COOMMEEOONN who in their right mind wouldn’t go for a silken skinned dusky nubile Thai whatever in preference to a Foringer (as I believe we are called)?
Next time Letty and Winifred come, instead of packing the cucumbers and thinly sliced white bread (you can buy them here you know) they should pack plenty of money and they, like myself and my friend would want to forsake dear old GB, move here, buy a big house, fill it with Thai gentlemen and have a ball.
But PLEASE warn them not to put the house in any of the Thai’s names, don’t leave their credit, ATM cards, any gold, any cash lying around, don’t buy any farms and be prepared to be abandoned when the money runs out, which if they follow the rules laid out could be later rather than sooner, think of the ball Winifred and Letty could have before that happened.
Sincere best wishes for their happiness, hope they can pick up the Mail on the internet when they are back in Stow In The Wold, seem like competent spinsters to me, just need a bit of sensible advice.
Dear RW,

I must commend you for sending in advice for Winifred and Letty, but they’re not sisters, Petal. Where did you get that idea? Goodness me, they don’t even hold hands and stay in separate rooms. Letty even sprinkles talcum powder on her bath water so that she isn’t embarrassed by any reflections as she steps in. Letty’s surname, in case there are other interested gentlemen out there, is Crabcrutch, however, it is Winifred that is the dab hand at the cucumber sandwiches, which we dined upon with a bottle of giggle juice that Letty picked up cheap at Carrefour last month. Of course it wasn’t champagne, it actually was just some Thai sparkler, pretending to be champagne, it wasn’t even ‘methode champenoise’, but needs must when the devil drives, as they say!
By the way, Thais call foreigners ‘Farangs’, not ‘Foringers’. ‘Foringers’ is the term used by people from Stow In The Wold to describe people from London who come out there and buy up all the best properties and then try to make cucumber sandwiches. That really sorts out the gentry from the nouveau riche.

Dear Hillary,
I don’t know if you can help me, but I am starting to get desperate. I am heartily sick of the never-ending story of road repairs. Even when they lay new concrete, they will come along two months later and dig it all up again to lay water drains. Every day another section of road is being re-profiled and trucks with bitumen and road rollers are blocking the traffic. Any trip takes twice as long as it should. Don’t they have anyone to coordinate the work so that they don’t have to dig up the same roads twice? You might wonder what this has got to do with you Hillary, but they have been digging outside my house for the past six days and I can’t get to sleep in the daytime and it is playing hell with my love life. Got any suggestions?
Stop That Noise!
Dear Stop That Noise,

I must say I certainly did wonder what the local road works had to do with me. Goodness me, Petal, you wouldn’t catch me out there in the early mornings with hair in curlers and a shovel under my arm. Carrying concrete for a living just isn’t on, especially at my age, and with the terrible disease I’ve got. I still find it amazing that they can say I’ve got a liver problem when I’m lucky to get one bottle of champagne a month! Now to your insomnia. Have you thought of going somewhere else during the daytime? To her place perhaps? Or even ear plugs? But why do you need to sleep during the day anyway? Surely you haven’t got a job that has you on night shift? In the meantime, why don’t you go out there yourself and give them a hand. I’m sure they will appreciate it, and the extra physical activity will make you so tired you will go to sleep immediately.

Camera Class: Digital camera extended test - Canon Ixus 40

by Harry Flashman

As a race, human beings are extremely lazy. We will walk to the closest shop, and pay more for the convenience, rather than going the extra distance to get the item cheaper at the supermarket. This is why Seven-11’s are around 500 metres apart!

So what has that got to do with the three month extended test of the Canon Ixus 40? In fact, about everything, because the digital revolution is all about convenience, and not about imaging, especially at the lower end of the consumer market. While the up-market Nikon DX series can do just about everything that the Nikon F5 can, this is professional territory. The Canon Ixus 40 is point and shooters territory, and this should not be forgotten. If you are looking for full manual control cameras, then be prepared to spend the money for an SLR. The Ixus 40 is the digital point and shoot alternative.

At the outset, I mentioned ‘convenience’, and this is where the Ixus 40 has it all over the standard film compact point and shoot cameras. Smaller than most mobile phones, it can easily slip in the pocket or purse, but, and a large but - it is not a light plastic cased camera, and will soon drag your shirt pocket down. I have found a mobile phone leather case works well, and you can then attach the Ixus 40 to your belt, from where it can be easily retrieved when the photo opportunities arise.

The long-time digital users all state how much the LCD screen takes from the battery, but since the camera takes more than 100 shots (provided you have a big enough memory card), this is more than enough. I have also found that the battery recharges very quickly after the initial long charge.

There is another reason to use the LCD to frame up your photos, and that is the fact that the optical viewfinder, although it is coupled to the optical zoom, is not through the lens, and has a much smaller field of view than the LCD screen, which is through the lens. The LCD is WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), the optical viewfinder is most certainly not. It is also very small, and I found it annoying in its limitations. Canon could easily have dropped the optical finder in the Ixus 40, in my opinion.

The camera itself feels very sturdy, with a reassuring weight from its metal case; however, the cover over the AV outlet is small and fiddly, and the battery and memory card door is likewise plastic and not reassuring.

The memory card that is supplied with the camera is a joke, the capacity is too small. Do some heavy bargaining when you make the initial purchase and get the 256. It is worth it.

Getting final prints is not difficult either. All the digital photo-processing outlets will very quickly (a matter of minutes) download your shots on to a CD for around B. 150. After this, you can then very easily scroll through them using the family PC, note the reference numbers, and get the hard copy prints made for the album, which cost the standard print film rate of around B. 6-9, depending on the size you want.

Undoubtedly the Canon Ixus 40 scores high in its convenience in carrying, use (it is fully automatic) and getting the final prints. In its operation, it is a case of turning it on, framing (it has a zoom facility for people too lazy to walk closer to the subject) and shooting. The visual focussing beam is quite powerful, and again this is a reassuring feature. Even at night you can see what you are going to get.

Downside? The main one I have found is that with such a small camera in large hands, it is very easy for the left index finger to partially obscure the flash, which is on the top left of the camera, from the photographer’s viewpoint.

At B. 18,000 I still consider the Ixus 40 to be good value, and as a family camera, wins by convenience every time.

Money Matters: The China Syndrome

A five-dimension analytical model for deciding when (and when not) to purchase from the East (Part 3)

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Five Dimensions (continued…)

3. Lead Time and Scheduling Stability. Ocean freight adds four to six weeks to the delivery time from China to Western markets. The risk of this extended supply chain to the core business needs to be incorporated into any assessment of whether China is the right place from which to procure. The time delay generated by the longer supply chain significantly increases the chances of both stock-outs in the near term, and excess and obsolete inventory in the long term. So procurement executives must carefully weigh several factors to ensure that their lead times and scheduling remain stable:

• Because Chinese providers typically include large volumes of a product in each shipment, buyers face inventory and defect risk. Purchasing in large volumes means more of the buyer’s dollars are tied up in massive inventory investments, a source of inventory carrying costs and, potentially, obsolescence. Moreover, if manufactured defects are spread throughout a shipment, that could mean thousands of useless components.

• For some product categories, ocean freight lead time can make a Chinese procurement effort unwise. For instance, a manufacturer of telecom infrastructure seemed to be a perfect fit for China because its wiring panels required labour-intensive assembly. However, this benefit was cancelled out because the manufacturer’s customers often demanded a high degree of late-stage product customization and expected a rapid lead time. The manufacturer was able to charge more for these customized products and, thus, pay the slightly higher wages in Mexico and Eastern Europe for a quicker turnaround on components delivered to U.S. and Western Europe operations.

4. Product Design. Engineering changes can introduce instability even into mature supply chains. Because the items most frequently sourced are components made up of other components, when an old version of a product becomes obsolete, a change can create a cascade of incompatibility. What’s more, manufacturing operations require time to digest new products and processes; sub-par quality frequently corrupts operations during a transition period.

The long lead time and large order quantities required to do business cheaply in China exacerbate both these problems, because the arrival of old-version components can continue for weeks after an engineering change. And it can require an equally long time to take corrective action on lower - quality parts - thus, the central product-design considerations when sourcing from China:

• Products with one or more design changes per quarter may not be suitable for Chinese procurement. Frequent design changes mean the supply chain could end up with a continuous run of obsolete inventory and on a learning curve that resembles a merry-go-round. Products that are stable for at least a model year, such as automotive components, may fit better in a Chinese procurement strategy, since they essentially involve a successful one-time launch rather than continual incremental changes.

• China is probably not a good option when a high degree of skill is required to implement design changes. Chinese supply chains are challenged by the language gap, a lack of local technical capability for implementing changes correctly, and the complexities of suppliers’ processes for managing launches of new products.

5. Technical Capabilities. China is not currently a viable option for highly specialized manufactured products made with custom equipment, such as application-specific copper - wrapped coils or high-speed connector assemblies. The processes used to manufacture such products often require specific technical knowledge of product engineering or equipment design that generally is not available among suppliers in new procurement markets such as China.

By contrast, almost all suppliers can handle commoditized processes such as stamping, casting, and manual electronics assembly. Companies buying from Chinese sources must weigh two issues relating to the supplier’s capabilities:

• Sourcing subcomponents in China and maintaining technology-intensive activities in more highly skilled domestic factories will probably yield a better total cost return than procuring the total product. Technology-driven processes often need significant oversight if process control is to be maintained. That frequently can be achieved only in sophisticated plants in developed countries. When factory processes get out of skew in China, yields decrease and the resulting scrap (as well as logistics costs) can quickly overshadow savings generated by lower wage rates.

• The evolving sophistication of Chinese suppliers means careful buyers can gain some important, albeit temporary, advantages. Although products made with the least complicated, most mature technologies are the best choices to source from China, the nation’s suppliers continue to develop increasingly sophisticated skills. As a result, more companies are sourcing process - sensitive products, such as rubber and machined parts, from China. That can be a good decision when other critical procurement dimensions, such as lead time, engineering changes, and labour and transportation costs, favor China. It also can give a purchaser a boost over competitors who haven’t figured out where to go to combine China’s cost advantage with its emerging capabilities.

By analyzing the five critical dimensions for each unique procurement initiative, companies can better understand their geographic sourcing options - which products are candidates for being sourced from low-cost countries and which should be purchased from more developed markets. If a low - cost country is appropriate, assessment of lead times can help establish which commodities can be sourced from remote low-cost countries (such as China or India) and which need to be purchased more locally - from Mexico, say, or Eastern Europe.

China remains one of the world’s most desirable sourcing opportunities. Its wage advantages are not likely to end anytime soon, and its skills as a supplier and manufacturer will only grow stronger. But as is the case with any other procurement effort, obvious costs, such as labour, are not the only factors to take into account. When the other, subtler criteria in our model are considered, China may still be a lucrative gold mine for some companies. Others, though, should be careful: The ore could be a fool’s blend.

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: Comedy Battle lines

by Scott Jones

I get paid nothing to do this column even though I think my writing is worth four or five times that amount. Considering this whole newspaper costs 25 baht, my column only costs you 2 baht, almost free. Today’s subject is Freedom of Speech, Reading and Writing. Besides I’m working on a book whose proceeds will benefit a non-profit charity I started ( so that’s one chapter per week, one book a year, if my readers let me live that long.

I know there are at least four readers because we’ve received four letters: one positive and three from people who think my column, and I, are worthless. After my remarks about President Bush, one irate American wants to take away my freedom of speech. Another is glad I don’t live in the USA—we agree on this point—and threatened to come to Chiang Mai and “change my face.” In true colonial fashion, he wants me to think exactly like him ... and perhaps look like him as well. (Maybe he looks like Brad Pitt so that could be a good thing—but I doubt it.) After reading my words about fun words on Vietnamese menus, a Thai man recently wrote: “Perhaps immigration should send him back home so he can’t insult the neighbors.” Sigh. I love the sweet Vietnamese people and am very happy some of them speak English as humorously as I speak Vietnamese.

My first memory of Eviction Due To Inappropriate Humor and/or Disorderly Conduct was around age four. Dad had the classic dinner party at home for business clients. (I didn’t get an invitation.) When dinner was served, I appeared at the table with a box and asked a guest if he wanted to see what was inside. As I opened it, my pet frog hopped out and landed in his mashed potatoes and gravy. (I gave him the choice! It was his fault!) I may have suffered terminal brain damage from lack of oxygen while laughing at my frog in his potatoes and the line of gravy stains on his white shirt. They sent me to my room until I was eight. (I don’t know what happened to my frog. They probably fried it and ate his legs.)

I began to understand the thin lines that lie between humor and imprisonment as a comedian in America. The lines are different for everyone everywhere, even for people who seem exactly the same. I had two shows in two days at two very religious colleges. To assure they wouldn’t offend anyone and I wouldn’t be crucified, each school’s Humor Police scrutinized my comedy slides very carefully before their show. College A said, “The signs from Athol are unacceptable, but hey, Fish Balls is just a food.” College B said, “Fish Balls are offensive, but hey, Athol’s just the name of a town.” (Someday I hope to meet God and ask which college was correct.)

I’ve only been arrested once in my life for joking in an airport security line, but you’ll have to wait until my next column for that story. Until then, lighten up. Life is short. Make it wide. Laughter is the best medicine. “He who laughs last, laughs loudest?” No. I say, “He who laughs, lasts.” Or frown religiously, don’t read my column and try to get your issue of Chiangmai Mail for 24.8 baht.