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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: Alternative therapies offer relief to people living with HIV/AIDS

Owen Elias

The air filling the training room was heavy with the scent of camphor and kaffir limes. Suchitra knelt down on the floor mats to demonstrate how the pungent mixture of roots and herbs could be wrapped tightly in muslin cloth to form a herbal compress, or ‘louk pra kop’. “The compress can be used after massage to alleviate aches and bodily pain. Some of the herbs contained in the compress are also very good for treating skin conditions, often suffered by people living with HIV/AIDS.”

Herbal-compress

Suchitra, who works as a therapist at Chiang Mai Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, was joined at this month’s NGO forum by her colleague Sittichai Piyanarinmat to demonstrate the therapeutic value of traditional northern Thai herbal medicine and massage.

Massage and herbal medicine are just two of the many forms of alternative therapy that many people living with HIV/AIDS (PWHA) are using to help alleviate the symptoms caused by opportunist infections and attempt to boost their immune systems.

Having chopped and pounded the herbs in advance Sittichai showed the participants how to mix together the ingredients of the ‘louk pra kop’, which included kaffir lime, lemon grass, turmeric, tamarind leaves, camphor and salt. With our squares of cloth and lengths of string we bound together our own herbal compresses forming large aromatic bulbs. These were than placed in a steamer to heat before being applied to the body.

Once the compress was ready Suchitra retrieved it from the steamer and demonstrated how the hot fragrant ‘louk pra kop’ could be applied to aching muscles and joints. The sensation of the heat and the aroma of the herbs were certainly very relaxing.

Two of the participants were keen to point out the psychological value of these therapies. Prasert Dechaboon emphasized that “to increase the strength of the immune system your environment and mental condition are vital. Traditional medicine is very important in helping PWHA lead a balanced and meaningful life.”

Further addressing the psychological well being of PWHA the third speaker, Inlaeng Vongsouvahn gave us a short demonstration of Buddhist meditation. Formerly a monk, Inlaeng has many years experience teaching insight meditation and has worked with PWHA on the Sangha Metta project.

Inlaeng stressed that religion is not an important part of meditation but that it should be seen as a form of mental development. Talking us through both sitting and walking meditation, Inlaeng asked us to focus on our breathing. He advised us to bring our thoughts back to the rise and fall of the abdomen, should they begin to wander.

Having brought a state of calm contemplation to the room Inlaeng explained the specific benefits of meditation to PWHA. “People often suffer extreme mental stress when they first become aware of their condition. Meditation can help them to come to terms with this. The body and mind are inseparable. If our mind is healthy we can achieve physical health. Insight meditation helps to nurture the mind and therefore our physical condition.”

This, it seems, is at the heart of what alternative therapies can offer to PWHA; a combination of nurturing the body and mind in order to achieve a balanced and healthy way of living. Surely this is something we all could do with. The NGO forum takes place on the last Tuesday of every month. For more information please contact Owen Elias at Health and Development Networks, O53 418 438 or [email protected]


The Doctor's Consultation: Move over Atkins, here comes Corness!

by Dr. Iain Corness

I hear much from fat people about their “bad metabolism” and how lucky thin people are to have a “good metabolism”. Other than in a few spectacularly rare endocrine diseases, “bad metabolism” is not to blame for the shapes of 99.999 percent of fat people.

However, human metabolism is involved in the fat cycle, which is the same for all of us. Understand the following equation and you have now become your own personal dietician:

“Input exactly equals Output, plus or minus what goes into store.”

Read it again:

“Input exactly equals Output, plus or minus what goes into store.”

It means that the energy source (food and drink) equals the energy output (physical and mental effort), plus or minus what is stored (or removed) from your body as fat. This equation is independent of whatever you call the energy, be that kilojoules or calories or sugarlumps.

In simple terms, if the Input and Output are the same - then your weight stays the same. If the Input is greater than the Output, you have an excess that goes into store and you put on weight. If the Input is less than the Output, then you are in a deficit, the body makes up the energy levels it needs by burning up fat from the store, so you lose weight. Honestly, it is that simple.

So here we go, if you really want to lose weight (and you must do or you would have already gone to the next page), I present the well tried, proven and effective diet that I have modestly called the Dr. Corness 75 percent diet. (Others do this for their diets, why shouldn’t I do it for mine?) This diet is guaranteed. It will get the weight off, and keep it off and you do not have to count one calorie or kilojoule or sugarlump. If by following this diet you have not lost weight after four weeks, write to me and I will write back and tell you that you are a liar. Guaranteed!

This diet works by decreasing your input by 25 percent. In other words you can have 75 percent of what you would normally eat and drink every day. If you have four cream buns a day, you can have three! If you eat a pound of beef every night, you can have three quarters of a pound. That’s right, you don’t need to deny yourself anything! However, you do need to be honest with yourself.

Write down everything you eat for a week, work out the real 75 percents and then stick to it. By decreasing the input by 25 percent, you make the Input less than the Output, so the body needs to drag the deficit out of the store, which is the fat that is deposited under the skin and around all your organs.

Of course, if you want to really ensure there is a deficit, you can always increase the Output at the same time. A daily walk that you didn’t do before, walking to someone’s office in your building, rather than lifting the telephone, also uses up energy. Use the stairs, rather than the elevators.

The only downside to this diet is that you will not see instant results, and you will feel hungry for a few days. The reason for this is that the storage fat has to change into ‘energy’ fat before it can make up the deficit, and this takes two weeks. Your body will not chemically do this either, until you are in the deficit situation. Happy slimming!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
Dear old Pater has decided to pay myself and the adorable wee Malteser queens (Nit and Ying) a visit and is hoping to indulge in some amenable recreations. Pater has always shown a dedicated interest in pheasant plucking and wonders if gamebirds are available locally.
Mistersingha

Dear Mistersingha,
Again you pointedly ignore the fact that you have not come across with the promised goodies to my goodself. (For any new readers, this Mistersingha person promised buckets of chocolates and oceans of champagne for my services a couple of years back. I am still a lady in waiting.) Why should I do anything for you at this juncture. As the old Indian proverb goes, “He who cheats me once - shame on him. He who cheats me twice - shame on me.” As far as your father is concerned and his penchant for gamebirds, he will have no problems as long as his shooter has a silver inlaid barrel.
Dear Hillary,
I would like to publicise an experience I had recently, in the hope that is will serve as a warning to all farangs like myself who live in this country and are accustomed to enjoying the pleasures it offers. This is one of the dangers it offers.
I would like to explain that as an English teacher, I was well aware of those students who were studious and bright yet could not progress to further education since their family background was poor. I often wished there could have been some miracle to allow these students to follow those from more fortunate backgrounds.
Earlier this month I was returning to my condo when I noticed a young girl waiting in the corridor. I began talking to her and she explained that she had come to see a farang but as he had not turned up, she had a problem. I suggested she come into my room to discuss her problem. Although young, she struck me as well brought up and politely spoken. It transpired that she was a student at Ramkhamhaeng University. The problem was that this farang was due to give her some money. Her sister had paid 1,500 baht to the university as her fees outstanding for last term and she needed a further 3,000 baht in fees due for the coming term. She had to send 4,500 baht to her sister as soon as possible. She gave me her sister’s phone number and said she would be able to repay me on the 20th of the month when her sister got her salary. I was sure that this girl needed to continue her university education. I was also impressed that she did not want to take money without assuring me that it would be repaid. She thanked me politely and left.
A few days later, the same young girl came again. This time she informed me that she had lost her ID card. “The fine for lost ID card is 3,500 baht. I will pay you back, of course,” she said.
Another day or two passes and on the morning of the 19th she knocks at my door again. “Hello, you are early!” I remark naively. She does not reply but marches straight into the room and sits on the sofa. “By the way, I have to tell you something, I want 3,000 baht, now.” When I replied in the negative she said, “You pay me 3,000 baht. You pay now. You not pay, you big problem. I know policeman - not ordinary policeman - big policeman. You not pay, he take you. He put you in monkey house!”
Not having the presence of mind either to ask for her ID card or take a photo of her, I escort her from my room. I then went to seek the wisdom of a Thai friend who said, “Get out. Go to Bangkok for three weeks. You must not be there when they come and open the door to them.”
She tells me that in Thailand some people are very dangerous, just like in other countries. I could be hand-cuffed and led away or I could be beaten senseless by a couple of heavies.
To you my fellow papas, if you see a young girl, however, innocent, polite, cleanly turned out, she may appear to be, avoid her like the plague. Remember, she has been PLANTED there by an army of highly unpleasant and corrupt people! This is a game little girls play in Thailand.
Jomtien Hotpapa

Dear Jomtien Hotpapa,
There was too much in your letter to publish in its entirety, but you do highlight the dangers of being too trusting, not just in Thailand, I must add. Would you invite young girls to your room in your own country, and then lend them money? “Nice” young university students do not hang around condominium buildings waiting for foreigners to seek “loans”, now do they? It has been pointed out many times in this column that if you want to give money to sweet young things, then consider it a donation. It never is a ‘loan’. While I sympathize with you in many ways, you did leave yourself open to being taken advantage of. As you correctly point out, “(it is a) warning to all farangs like myself who live in this country and are accustomed to enjoying the pleasures it offers.” There’s no gain without pain, my Petal.


Camera Class: Cameras for the seniors

by Harry Flashman

There is a great tendency for families (and individuals) to write off granny or granddad just because they have reached the age of retiral. This is very wrong, as many of our senior citizens need something to keep them stimulated, to stop them growing old too soon. Photography is an ideal pastime for our seniors, as it is something that can be picked up and put down at will, it is not too physically demanding, and modern cameras can assist in some areas where age has taken some toll. And the end result is something that can give them great joy, be that award winning sunsets or just pictures of the grandchildren.

So what camera should granny get? The first pre-requisite is autofocus (AF). There are many reasons for this, but since sharp focus is necessary for a good final print, why not let the camera do it for you, when sharpness in vision is something that becomes very problematical as you get older. Since most people need reading glasses by the time they are 45, and at least half the population has mild cataracts by the time they are 60, AF is the way to go! Provided you can point the camera in the right direction, the camera will do the rest.

Actually there are two types of camera which can do this. They are called Auto Focus (AF) or Fixed Focus. The AF ones are the more expensive, and work by moving the lens in and out electronically to focus on the subject in the middle of the viewfinder, just as if you were doing it yourself. They do this quickly and accurately and will even give an audible ‘beep’ to let you know the focus has been set.

The Fixed Focus types are generally satisfactory for all but close-up shots. They rely on the lens design to keep the entire picture in focus. Their zone of sharpness extends from about two meters away to infinity; however, do not be afraid to try the new advanced cameras, they make life easier, just use them to your advantage.

Another problem often associated with aging is stiffening of the fingers. Today’s cameras take care of this as well. Technology has developed the easy load system for you. Just drop the film cassette into the camera, pull the film across about five centimetres and close the camera back. The camera will automatically wind the film on and stop ready at frame number 1. It will indicate if the take up is not successful, and will not operate until the film is in correctly. Nothing could be simpler or more fool proof.

Remember those dreadful fiddly pull up handles to rewind the film? The tiny button under the camera you had to push at the same time? Try using those with arthritic fingers. Now you don’t have to, with Auto Rewind as well. When the last shot has been taken, the film automatically rewinds itself into the cassette.

Zoom lenses save you having to go the distance. Is it just too much of a hassle these days to walk up to distant objects to get close-up details? Then a zoom lens will do it for you. With a zoom lens it is no problem at all to get a close-up, a wide angle and a distant shot from the same camera position. Maybe an autofocus compact camera with an inbuilt zoom lens is just the camera for you. Just push a button to make the zoom bring the subject closer or farther away.

Today’s camera manufacturers have taken the tears out of flash too. Most new cameras have their own in-built flash which comes on when the light levels are too low, will set their own flash power and give you perfectly lit indoor night shots every time.

So there you have it, Grey Power. There are cameras available now which can get you into photography! If you once had the ‘photographic eye’, then that ability is still there. All you have to do is get the equipment to let you use and enjoy it again. Look for suitable AF compacts with built in zoom, auto load and auto flash.


Dogs - Man’s best friend: Dachshunds – Breed group nr. 4

Nienke Parma

As the title indicates, this group consists purely of Dachshunds. Germany, the country of origin, recognizes nine different breeds in three forms, the Standard Dwarf and Miniature, and three varieties, namely smooth-haired, long-haired and rough-haired. Due to their utilitarian role as Germany’s most effective earth dogs, many Kennel Clubs have these breeds aptly classified with the other earth dogs—the terrier group. The FCI, however, classifies the Dachshunds as a separate group and knows only two forms; the Standard and the Miniature. To which form a Dachshund belongs is determined by the circumference of the chest.

Similar to many terrier breeds the Dachshund was bred for hunting below ground. The standard version specialized in flushing badgers (Dachshund in German means badger in English) from their burrows and foxes from their dens. The Dwarf was used for hunting weasels and polecats and, later, the miniature was bred for hunting rabbits.

All Dachshunds are of hound origin, with the rough-haired originating through cross-breeding with the rough-haired German Pinscher and the Schnauzer. For the long-haired ones they used the Setter and the Cocker Spaniel. This resulted in quite some character differences between the breeds. Nevertheless, in general, the following applies to this group: due to its original task, the Dachshund is pretty independent, very active and has great perseverance. As a result, the Dachshund needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation. The group is known for its self-will, which doesn’t imply it can’t learn anything. Indeed it learns easily and eagerly.

However, when proper training is lacking, these dogs, once loose, may follow their nose rather than their owner. In order to train this breed to obey its owner, the owner needs to find out what motivates it best. Not always an easy task.

A well-trained and socialized Dachshund is a friendly and cheerful dog. Most are not too fond of children unless they have grown up with them from puppy-hood on. Also, when properly socialized, most act neutral towards other dogs, although there may be some that will test their strength, especially when they are challenged.

Most Dachshunds will defend their territory enthusiastically by loud barking. When this dog has learned to be alone it can be so perfectly for a while. But if not, it may show its anxiety by soiling, destruction or excessive barking.

Unfortunately, sometimes due to improper breeding and/or lack of socialization, these breeds can show undesired behavior such as being too confident, fearfulness, shyness or nervousness, resulting in growling or, worse, biting. And due to their original task, the Dachshund has a natural tendency to bark a lot. Today most Dachshunds are kept as family pets, though in Germany they’re still used in their old role.

To be continued …

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


Money Matters: Financial Market

Part 2

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

We’ve already seen that the need for current account adjustment has applied upwards pressure on interest rates (and possibly already some minor consequent decline in stock prices) to prevent the stimulus from net exports from pushing GDP much above potential. This is taking place against a backdrop of softening domestic investment and consumption. Admittedly, it is possible for that to take place in an orderly fashion. Increases in interest rates and a weakening of domestic spending have not always implied a disorderly correction. That’s essentially what the Fed research manages to establish even with their various inappropriate historic comparisons. What it doesn’t address is how the frothy US asset bubble can avoid declines in asset prices of a magnitude that would do something rather worse than merely stabilizing GDP. Even the researchers agree that there is a level of reduction in US asset values that would result in significant economic contraction.

What they also fail to take into account is the possibility of an economic slowdown and/or asset price contraction as a catalyst for further currency falls which then creates a vicious spiral of further slowdown and further disinvestment and asset value falls. In other words, there is more than one potential cause under which the disorderly correction scenario is plausible, but the researchers tend to limit their focus to a very narrow view of causality.

Any analysis of cause and effect needs to look at the impact of the economy on the currency as well as vice versa. We don’t dispute the historical data that a run on the Greenback by itself is not sufficient to cause markets to become “disorderly” in that technical sense of the word - the dollar declines in the mid-1980s and since 2002 have not been associated with any discernable degree of market malfunction. We do, however, dispute the implied contention that this means that there is a historic precedent to assume that this will be how the current deficit is worked out. The dissimilarity of the historic comparisons does not offer any comfort that the present deficit can correct without problems.

One example is that complete absence of any critical comparison of stock prices, in terms of p/e ratios or any other historic basis of stock price evaluation. Actually we have a problem in relying on simple p/e ratios as a guide to realistic stock values – stocks are a claim to a future stream of free cash flows, i.e. the cash that can actually be delivered to shareholders over time after all other obligations have been satisfied, including the provision for future growth.

Price/earnings ratios based on operating earnings are inherently misleading, since that “earnings” figure does not deduct interest owed to bondholders nor taxes owed to the government. The price/operating earnings ratio therefore makes high debt companies look misleadingly cheap.

Since the debt burden of U.S. corporations has increased substantially in recent years, this also means that current price/operating earnings ratios are not comparable to historical ones. However, a properly critical analysis such as this should, at the very least, pay lip service by comparing the relative levels of stocks at the onset of current account adjustments.

If critically adjusted stock levels are below, at or close to historic norms, there should be no expectation that their performance will be comparable to that of markets where indices are, on an adjusted basis, stratospheric.

In terms of P/E ratios, it’s important for the “E” chosen by an investor to have a reasonably stable relationship to what matters, which is the long-term stream of free cash flows. The long-term earnings growth for the S&P 500 has been 6% annually.

This is true regardless of whether one looks back 10, 20, 50 or 100 years. Given that the average historical price/peak earnings ratio for the S&P 500 is 14 - with the bulk of that history represented by periods of lower inflation and lower interest rates than currently exist - and that the median ratio is 11, it is fairly simple to combine this information to produce adjusted long-term expectations for stock returns and, importantly for a critical evaluation such as this, to formulate meaningfully adjusted relative valuation assumptions.

The situation that we now face is 2005’s situation where the twin deficits look increasingly unmanageable in the context of an enormously leveraged economy, in which that leverage has sustained unprecedented increases in asset prices. This taints the whole analysis with a fatal flaw.

The second fatal flaw in the research is the stated opinion of the researchers of a reduced likelihood of US asset disposals following a currency fall “in a world of rational expectations, such a scenario would be unlikely: as the dollar declined, investors would judge that the dollar had less far to go to reach its equilibrium value, and this decline in expectations of depreciation would buoy stock and bond prices.”

Have these people never lived through a crash? The more stocks fell in 1987, the keener investors were to sell. For some investors this is a rational decision based on increasing uncertainty changing the investment landscape, for others it may well be a matter of no choice if they are leveraged or their financial positions are suddenly changed in a contracting economy. For many, periods of uncertainty breed fear and lead to irrational selling even beyond the point where fair value has been passed.

The researchers’ idea that further currency falls and a slowing economy could each take place independent of U.S. stock and bond markets is highly unlikely. We fail to see how the appetites of both foreign and domestic investors would not be reduced voluntarily or as a matter of compulsion, deliberately and irrationally in such a situation. This is how crashes develop.

The third weakness stems from the failure to recognise one of the most significant differences in the present situation when they are working through the process of how historic corrections have occurred. The issue about the current account deficit is that when it has to be paid, the contractionary pressures on the economy as a whole increase as more and more GDP goes to service the debt burden and less gets spent or growth.

Next week, part 3…

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: The No-Joking Zone (Part 2 of 2)

by Scott Jones

(Read the start of this story in last week’s issue, online at http://www.chiangmai-mail.com/129/columns .shtml#hd13. Basically I told airline security there was an exploding scarf in my bag and the place went bonkers. The Bomb Squad frantically deposited my luggage on an unused runway and ran away.)

From a safe distance, we watched my bags not blow up for about a half hour. (You can’t imagine how many things I didn’t say.) Then the very brave and bold Mr. Bomb in his chartreuse jumpsuit that was perfectly color coordinated with his truck took me out to examine my luggage. We approached the trailer cautiously. He looked on from some distance as I sifted through the contents. (I wanted to warn him about the bazooka shaped like a toothbrush in my shaving kit, but ...) Everyone seemed rather disappointed when nothing exploded. All the potential heroes went back to their respective paper-shuffling positions and glared at me resentfully as I was led out of the terminal.

Mr. Detective drove me to the police station to meet Mr. FBI who informed me I was facing a felony charge with $1000 bail for a Bomb Threat. At that point, I lost several years of my life and messed up a nice pair of designer jeans. So far no one had even mentioned I was under arrest. Cardiac arrest now seemed imminent. Luckily, it was just his duty to shock me first and then reduce the charge to disorderly conduct. I was relieved but somewhat satisfied ... this experience was worth the fine.

A burly patrolman, the Incredible Hulk’s twin brother, took my mug shots. (I wanted to ask him if his neck had always been larger than his head, if he jogged on those arms, and if he had posed for the picture next to the definition of “the missing link” in my anthropology book, but I didn’t.) He instructed me to roll up my sleeves for the fingerprinting. The rolling exposed a severe case of poison ivy welts on my forearms. Mr. Hulk recoiled in horror and yelled out the doorway, “Sarge, he’s got some disease all over his arms!” (Translation: “Mom, I’m scared.”) Mr. Sergeant consoled him and told him not to touch my arms. He nervously picked up each finger by the very tip, inked it clumsily and tried to press it on the paper ... an untidy task since ten massive links of salami were doing service as fingers on his huge hulk hands. All of our fingers and hands were blackened in the process. My prints were a cross between a Rorschach Test and second-grade finger-painting.

Thirty dollars poorer but a free man again, I returned to the scene of the crime. Mr. Manager and the Uniforms stared stone-faced as I exchanged my old ticket for a new one and headed for the gate. I was in internal hysterics, but kept very, very quiet as Mrs. Blue Hair checked my dangerous bag once again. All watched intently, hoping I might explode. Six hours late, I was greeted by my father and friends who’d made a party of the occasion in the airport lounge. He put his arm around me and dramatically announced: “Some fathers can say, ‘My son ... the lawyer.’ Some get to say, ‘My son ... the doctor.’ I’m proud to introduce my disorderly son ... the comedian.”