Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

The Doctor's Consultation: Breast Augmentation - yesterday and today

by Dr. Iain Corness

Breast size and women’s well-being have been inexplicably intertwined for centuries. Perhaps it is the result of the young male baby being weaned at an early age and longing for those palpably bounteous days again for the rest of his life! For whatever reason, “acceptable” breast size means much to many.

Chasing the ideal shape has even resulted in patents being awarded to various ‘strap-on’ devices, such as Mrs Anne McLean’s patented cone-shaped wire spring devices in 1858.

The medical profession was also interested and a brave chap by the name of Gersuny tried paraffin injections in 1889, with disastrous results (for the lady and to his reputation). He was followed by Czerny, who made the first recorded surgical attempt to enlarge the breasts in 1895, when he attempted to transplant a lipoma (fatty tissue tumour) from the back of an actress to her breasts. This did not result in a string of actresses with lipomata beating a pathway to his surgery! Surgery gave up (temporarily) at that point.

After this, it was a return to the ‘smoke and mirrors’ approach with various push-up or push-out and “push-off you dirty old man” brassieres. Or various creams and potions of doubtful value and little pleasing result, other than for the not unwilling male masseurs.

However, immediately post WWII, Berson in 1945 and Maliniac in 1950 performed a dermafat flap, while Pangman introduced the Ivalon sponge in 1950, and various synthetics were used throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including silicone injections. Unfortunately, all of these resulted in long and short-term disasters.

However, while handling a bag of blood in 1961, Baylor University surgical resident Frank Gerow noted how much it felt like a woman’s breast. He and Thomas Cronin then went on to invent the silicone breast implant. It is reported that at the time, it was seen as a safer alternative to injecting silicone straight into the breasts, a method pioneered by Japanese prostitutes in postwar Yokohama and later popularized by San Francisco stripper Carol Doda.

By 1963, Cronin and Gerow had developed the first silicone gel breast implant in conjunction with the Dow Corning Corporation. This was the start of reproducible results, and the art of breast augmentation really kicked on. Dow Corning were of course not alone, and many manufacturers produced implants for flat ladies all over the world.

However, in the 1970’s there were claims that the silicone gel produced all kinds of ailments, and as soon as the lawyers became involved, manufacturers were left with mounds of quivering gel, while the courtroom battles ensued. Quite frankly, it is difficult to defend your position against a claim, when the courts make you prove that it couldn’t happen. There is always a ‘possibility’ that something ‘could’ happen.

The demand from the ladies was still there, so saline implants were next, but there are even problems here too. Every augmentation has its risks.

So what are the common problems? First off, deflation. In one large study in the USA, deflation occurred in 21 (2.1%) of 960 implants. Next is infection. Overall, infections occurred in 6 (0.63%) of 960 implants. Capsular contractions are another large (or enlarged) problem. In this study, a total of 25 of the 960 implants had problems, making an overall rate of 2.6 percent. The end result indicating that 95 percent had no problems.

For whatever reason you would like augmentation, it is a (relatively) ‘safe’ procedure, that can change your outlook (and look) forever.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
My next door neighbour is an averaging looking guy but he seems to possess something that attracts the girls. Perhaps he has a huge personality, a big bank balance, a superior intellect, or maybe there is something else about him that is alluringly well proportioned but whatever it is, it is causing a problem for me.
Hordes of girls visit him at various times of the night. They knock loudly on his front door and this always wakes me. Next, I’m disturbed by female squeals coming from his premises together with thumping noises against the wall. I thought that maybe he engages in strenuous bedroom activities, but this racket occurs many times every night and continues non-stop for at least forty minutes each time. I doubt that any guy is that talented.
They could either be playing racquet ball in there or I’m living next door to Marathon Man. Hillary, if I give you his address would you be prepared to visit him and report back to me with your findings?
Mighty Mouse

Dear Mighty Mouse,
Oh you are a naughty little mouse, tempting Hillary like this. However, you did not say whether he keeps champagne and chocolates in his refrigerator! I think you have also mis-spelled the name of this man’s nocturnal exercising. It is more likely to be ‘racket-ball’ than racquet ball, from your description. Since you say that there are hordes of young girls every night, it must be some sort of ‘team’ event that he is running. Perhaps it is skittles that they are playing, where you throw the balls and knock over the people at the far end of the lane? Mind you, Mighty Mouse, I also get the feeling that you are showing more than just a tad of envy, Petal. However, perhaps a sign on his door, which states that he is fully occupied and you have room for spare players might get them knocking on your door and that might work?
Dear Ms. Hillary,
A pearl of wisdom came my way which I thought I should share with your good self and your millions of devoted fans. An expat acquaintance said he was fed up with his friends either coming to him and proclaiming they were in love and loved in return AGAIN, or alternatively crying that the latest love of their life had departed, SO in either case he marches them into his bedroom where he has wall to wall, floor to ceiling mirrors, turns the lights up full, tells them to undress and stand in front of the mirror and face the fact that no attractive under twenty five would truthfully want to go to bed with what he was looking at if it wasn’t for financial gain, which like every form of blackmail, escalates once the blackmailer sees the victim is willing to pay!
He says it usually works, if it doesn’t he advises them to catch the first flight home and face reality back wherever they come from as they don’t seem to be able to do it here in EldoPattayaRado!
Wonder if your delicate senses regard that particular cure as a bit brutal and could recommend something a little less harsh but equally as effective. I have a Thai friend who owns a small Gay Guest House in Pattaya, he always tut tuts and frets that the Farangs NEVER seem to learn, no matter how many times they are knocked over. Rather like those wonderful little policeman dolls with round bottoms who come bouncing back up again and again and again, ready for the next punch in the gob, permanent smile on their stupid faces!
Best wishes as ever,
Solomon

Dear Solomon,
Ah, the wisdom of Solomon indeed. But how many of us (Hillary included) wants to parade around naked in some person’s house, in front of wall to ceiling mirrors and look at the cold hard truth? That’s why they invented alluring clothes and make-up, my Petal! If I took your advice, I think I wouldn’t even go to bed with myself, and that would create a real problem. I am also interested in your Thai friend’s guest house. I didn’t know that guest houses showed any particular sexual preferences? All the ones I have stayed at have been merely brick and concrete inanimate objects, but perhaps they really are a seething mass of unrequited hormones! You learn something every day!
Dear Hillary,
My husband has to do a lot of entertaining in his job and we usually do this in some of the restaurants here. My husband likes it but I would prefer to do this at home. Do you think he does not like my cooking?
Connie the Cook

Dear Connie the Cook,
How long have you been married? Surely you must know if your husband likes your cooking or not, or have you tried poisoning him? Have you discussed entertaining at home? Communication is the name of the game in marriages. Have you lived here long? You may not be aware that entertaining in Thailand is traditionally done in restaurants and not in people’s homes. It is very rare to get an invitation to a private home. Enjoy going out, and cooking meals on stay at home nights.


Camera Class: Time lapse photography made easy

by Harry Flashman

I covered time lapse photography some time ago, but it bears another article, as it is probably the easiest, yet most spectacular form of wall art that any photographer can produce. And you do not need fancy equipment. In fact you and your point and shoot auto-everything compact can do it.

What you have to remember is that the standard photograph is merely one moment in time, frozen for eternity. The famous French photographer Lartigue was particularly good at this. So also was Henri Cartier-Bresson, who uttered the famous phrase “the decisive moment.”

Now in time lapse photography, you record a series of these decisive moments, one after the other, all related to each other. This kind of photography will show such things as the development of a flower, or the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis. You know the sort of thing - all very National Geographic or Disney World. Any of you who have seen the film “A Zed and Two Noughts” will also remember those scenes of bodies decomposing, all done by time lapse photography. Very avant-garde.

Now while all this style of time lapse photography sounds expensive and even time consuming, it does not need to be so. You can produce your own time lapse shots with any old camera. It just needs a little planning.

There is one photographer who on her birthday takes a photo of herself in the nude. This she has done for the past 30 something years and has produced a time lapse record of human aging. This series of shots has been studied by the medical profession, as it is the only such record that has been undertaken in the world. So, if it doesn’t depress you too much, there’s an idea for you!

No, for me, I want more instant gratification than that. I believe you should pick on something that can allow you to produce a finished product in the sort of time frame that you could sit with comfortably (and not lose the photographs taken previously). So let us look at some items that you could do easily, with just a point and shooter.

Here is one suggestion - buy a rose (they sell them in all bars every night) and place it in a vase by the window and shoot it at lunchtime. Leave it exactly where it is, and take one lunchtime shot every day for the next week. In that time, it will have spread its petals, begin to die, the petals will shrink up, the stem will bend over, the water will have gone cloudy and other attributes that will only become obvious when you study the shots. However, to capitalise on this you must mount the seven shots, side by side, in order from the left. You have just produced a work of art in a week!

So you haven’t got the stamina for a week. What else can you do? Well, there is always the record of one object in daylight. Take six shots, one every two hours, of your house, for example, starting at 6 a.m. You will see how the different time of day produces different light, the sun’s movement produces different shadows and again, by mounting them side by side, in order from the left, you will have produced a work of art in one day!

So you don’t want to spend a day getting your definitive time lapse shots, so look at taking one hour. In that time you can document the progress of a snail along a wall, or serial shots of people walking down the street, or the way your beer glass empties. Just light it from behind with natural lighting to get the best effect. Probably repeat this a few times over a Sunday, with the final shot being a glass of water and two headache tablets.

Note that I have said that the shots should be mounted chronologically from the left. We read from left to right and we naturally then place the “start” of anything on the left, with the “finish” on the right. (Arabic countries that read from right to left, would mount theirs the other way round!)


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

Jan, who lives with his family just outside Chiang Mai, not far from Sarapee, wanted to replace an old keyboard with a new top of the line ergonomic model he had seen on a US web site. The keyboard is shared at home with the whole family. You don’t have to share a keyboard with a child or partner who has the munchies while playing computer games for it to get pretty grungy. Take a look at yours - it probably hosts more bugs than a medical lab.

While new keyboards can be had for less than a home-delivery pizza, there’s something about a keyboard you know and like to use - it somehow works better than a new one and its keys are exactly where you expect them to be and not a millimetre out of place. So, if your keyboard looks more like a biology experiment, then it’s time to give it the once over. And it’s cheaper than a replacement.

Get rid of the loose bits

Before you begin, turn off the computer and disconnect the keyboard. Turn the keyboard upside down over the sink or some newspaper and give it a tap with your hand to dislodge any larger loose bits. If you have a can of compressed air, use it to blow smaller particles out of the keyboard. Take care where you do this, however, because the dislodged stuff can fly about and, if you don’t want it in your keyboard, you don’t want to breathe it in. A dry, grease free pastry brush is also useful for brushing gently where large digits cannot go (I always carry one in my bag when making house calls).

Wipe over the keys with a clean, damp, lint-free cloth. Add some mild detergent if the keys are really dirty. Use damp cotton buds to get into the crevices between the keys. If heavy-duty cleaning is required, soak the cotton buds in alcohol first. A word of warning - whenever a job calls for a damp cloth, put the liquid on the cloth not the keyboard and wring out as much water as you can before use. The cloth should be damp to the touch, not wet.

Removing keys

For keys that don’t work or stick, try and remove the keycap from the keyboard. Some keyboards aren’t meant to be dismantled, but the keycaps on most cheaper ones pop off quite easily. Do this using something flat, such as a small blade screwdriver, and prise the keycap off the keyboard. Work from one side, prise it up a little, then move to another side so you pull it off as straight as you can. If it doesn’t prise easily then don’t force it - it may be one of the ones that isn’t meant to pull apart.

Look for anything likely to cause the problem, such as something jammed under the key. Clean the keycap and replace it. Don’t remove too many keycaps at once - it can be difficult to keep track of them if too many are gone. To prod your memory, draw a diagram or take a photo of the keyboard. If keys are missing their letters, use a permanent marker to write the letter back onto the key and then seal with a coat or two of clear nail varnish. Also, varnish any letters that are wearing away to protect them. You can also buy stick on letters from the local computer malls.

When all the keys are back in place, test them before plugging the keyboard back into the computer and turning it on. If there is any chance the electric circuits in the keyboard are damp, put the keyboard aside for a couple of hours to ensure it is dry before plugging it in.

Dealing with disaster

If your morning coffee takes a tumble into the keyboard, turn off the computer and unplug the keyboard immediately. Turn the keyboard upside down to drain it before beginning the mop-up process. Spills such as this may be unrecoverable, but it’s worth a try.

If worst comes to worst, and your keyboard is past its working life, check the recycling options on the web, although not too many options are available in Chiang Mai. Recycling computer parts benefits the community and you can create one-of-a-kind craft projects using discarded keys. The Volunteer Group for Children’s Development (VGCD) located near the US Consulate have been using discarded computer parts for an art exhibition which will open towards the end of May. Why not donate your old parts and go and see how the finished art work looks at this exhibition. Visit www.classifiedthai land.com and search on VGCD to read the announcement for the Art Exhibition and details on how to contact them.

You could also create computer-key fridge magnets by checking out http://www. kidsturncentral.com/crafts/recyclekeys.htm

In the next column, I have a few more Questions and Answers to share with you. Don’t forget to keep your preferred anti-virus and spysweepers up to date. Do a full hard disc scan and sweep at least once a week. Don’t open e-mails with funny attachments if your not expecting them and last but not least, make sure your firewall is on. Dr Byte appears in Chiangmai Mail every 2 weeks and if you have any questions or suggestions you would like to make, you can contact me at Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.


Money Matters: The Big Picture

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Back in 2003, John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard and disciple of passive index investing, who has long held that, in general, active investing is inferior to passive investing, took his observation one step further in a speech stating that, “While the [US] market has provided an annual return of 13% during the past 20 years, and the average equity fund earned an annual return of 10%, the average fund investor, according to recent estimates, earned just 2% per year”!

In explaining the reason for the poor performance by investors, Bogle points to, among other things, a lack of long-term thinking, citing particularly striking figures showing that the average retail mutual fund investors’ hold period has shrunk from 16 years in the 1950s to just 2 years of late. It appears that the advent of CNBC and others is having little positive impact on the investing public.

Whilst we’re fierce advocates of active over passive investing, we believe that Bogle quite correctly identifies short-term thinking as the root cause of such dramatically inferior investor returns. Admittedly you could argue that’s rich coming from MBMG International whose investment philosophy is that the long term is just a series of connected short terms and whose favourite aphorism is that “long term investments are just short term investments made by people who got it wrong”.

However, there is a difference between trying to achieve consistent short term results by having a long term focus in place, which is one of core beliefs and just chasing every new fad, which has happened since Oscar Wilde said “nothing becomes so outdated as the fashionable” through the hey days of Fidelity Magellan (great performance, but no-one made any money from it) in the 70s and 80s through to the inability of too many investors to withstand their emotions of greed and fear, epitomised by the advent of day trading, dot com mania, accounting scandals and motley fools, causing them to buy high and sell low, thereby destroying value.

Of course if most investors are destroying value through untimely impulsive trading, the few who can withstand those emotions, run counter to the herd, and invest on the basis of fundamentals, stand to gain disproportionately. Our objective is to ensure that we maintain the perspective to allow us to continue to be among those few (much easier to say than to do). Especially as superior risk-rated returns are not delivered in a straight line over time.

A contrarian approach has allowed us to add value in managing portfolios on our clients’ behalf. We believe that conditions in 2005 will be so difficult in so many markets that unless you can have this kind of perspective and unless you maintain these disciplines, then disaster lurks. We see investors now pouring money into global equity markets and we shake our heads. If you weren’t in the markets on the run-up, don’t compound this by buying at the top.

John Bogle’s thoughts make for nice theory but fail to recognise many realities. If the US equity markets have provided 13% per year return and the average equity fund has delivered just 10% then by charging an annual cost expense ration of 3%, Bogle’s Vanguard trackers should beat the average. However that fails to take into account a number of realities.

Historically Vanguard couldn’t replicate the index because the addition of new companies into the index at the expense of companies who simply fell out of the index or had to be removed (a la Enron) meant that Vanguard’s holdings of stocks were an imperfect practical copy of a theoretical model, namely the index that they tried to replicate.

Bogle would argue that the current derivatives market allows for a much better replication of indices (which is indeed true, although it fails to acknowledge the inherent credit risk in utilising derivative counter parties and also the benefits available now to active managers who can use such derivatives to also improve their returns).

Over time quality rises to the top and a number of managers will, over significant periods of say three years or more, consistently achieve top quartile or top decile performance. In other words an average is made up of the good, the average and the ugly. Bogle aims to consistently be the cheapest of the average and has achieved outstanding success within that remit. He still trails the good by some way.

Bogle’s ‘buy, hold and prosper’ is the antithesis of what the most successful investors have always done - Buffett’s ‘buy cheap, sell expensive’ mantra makes more sense to me than Bogle’s ‘buy at any price, hold at any price’ regime.

Logically, Bogle’s approach makes no sense at all to me - but maybe that’s because I’ve spent years working as a financial planner. I don’t think that I’d have so many satisfied customers if I had to say to them “there’s this guy called Bogle who thinks that you should have put all your money in his passive funds 20 years ago and should hold it there forever. As long as you don’t actually need to withdraw your money at any stage then it’s absolutely the most average investment for you.”

Many funds, especially the equity funds created by Vanguard, are wholly inappropriate for a buy and hold through the roller coasters of a full economic cycle (which the most reliable research shows lasts for typically between 60-80 years anyway), although we would cite some exceptions to this.

Whilst presumably equity investors rather consistently allowed their emotions to get the better of them and shifted out of funds that had done poorly recently and into funds that had better near-term track records – effectively selling low and buying high – often just before the performance of those funds turned and reverted to more average levels, investors into funds that seek absolute returns (i.e. consistent growth irrespective of what equity markets are doing) tend to have much better experiences.

Orbis Investment managers, one of our preferred fund managers, decided to examine their fund members’ subscription and redemption behaviour into their absolute return funds. They discovered, using an internal rate of return analysis, that over the 15-year history of the fund there has been much less of a difference in the average aggregate member’s return experience versus the historical return experience of the fund. Over the entire history of the Orbis Optimal Fund, the yearly average return is 12.3% and the average aggregate member annual return is approximately 10%. This compares with Bogle’s observation of an average equity fund return of 10% and average annual fund investor return of 2%.

It seems that a bad workman blames his tools, but an average fund manager blames clients. Our clients have achieved better returns than Vanguard investors and have had the luxury of being able to choose something that actually suits their own financial requirements. Unless they show themselves to be capable of more creative thinking, Vanguard’s whole niche is likely to be devoured by more efficient, modern equivalents like ETFs (exchange traded funds). We wouldn’t be shedding too many tears at the eventual demise of Vanguard.

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 Electric Fishermen

by Scott Jones

Nature is my next-door neighbor. My outdoor kitchen/deck faces a stream, marsh and mountains. If something drops off the counter or deck, it bounces into the stream, which is very convenient for getting rid of fruit skins, piles of suicidal insects or unwanted guests. Although it seems very secluded, I never know who or what will show up. A 300 year old woman ambles by as I’m doing yoga and wonders why the weird white guy is motionless in a pretzel position. Some little dude with a very big gun hunts something while I hope it’s not Farang Season. A man-monkey hybrid scampers up a vertical tree and munches leaves. And the Electric Fishermen slosh through the stream.

It looks lovely from a distance but it’s not the clear, cool, mountain variety. It’s warm, brown and flat, teaming with agricultural whatever, sinister septic hoo-hah, UFOs (Unidentified Floating Objects), stool samples from my landlord’s diverse fowl collection, excretions from other bungalows, and yesterday, a two-meter snake. After stepping in while attempting to retrieve runaway kitchen items and sinking ankle-deep into invisible muck, I scrub with industrial-strength cleaning fluid, bleach and sandpaper. Not only do The Electric Fishermen wade in this infested water up to their shoulders, their “fishing rod” is hot with watts.

Their instrument of death is a mesh of metal lashed to a snake-length bamboo pole wrapped with a live wire slithering through the water, up the shore and finally sticking in one side of one outlet by my water pump. Fisherman A kills and Fisherman B stuffs the assorted dead in a sack. The wife and kids watch the shocking scene prepared to pull Daddy out and put him in a body bag. I just picture all the folks electrocuted when their hair dryer drops into the bathtub. It’s no mystery why my electric bill shot up to 1000 baht with these addled anglers pumping current straight into the waterways of Thailand.

Fishing in America is littered with specific licenses, daily limits, one-hook rules, seasonal regulations, computerized fish locators, atomic depth finders, supernatural strategies and endless TV angling shows that rival golf shows for Death By Boredom. I don’t remember anyone plodding through sewage armed with high-powered cattle prods and extension cords, but this method brings to mind a story involving two neighbors: an avid fisherman and a game warden. Mr. Fisher routinely came home with a huge catch. Mr. Warden asked to join him and get a few tips. Mr. Fisher said, “No problem. Meet me at the lake on Saturday at dawn.” Out in the boat, Mr. Fisher lit a stick of dynamite, flung it into the water and scores of lifeless fish flew into the air. As he gathered them into his net, Mr. Warden went ballistic, “This is outrageous! Totally illegal and disgusting! I’ll have you put away!” Mr. Fisher calmly reached into his tackle box, took out another stick, lit it, threw it into Mr. Warden’s lap and asked, “Are you going to bitch or are you going to fish?”

Hopefully the Electric Fishermen never learn this technique or my domestic peace will be shattered by explosions as dead fish, snakes, geese and parts of their family flop onto my deck.