Your Health & Happiness: Taking action on HIV/AIDS
The new HIV/AIDS Action Centre will be opening its doors for
the first time on July 12 at Health and Development Networks.
The Action Centre is intended to provide a focal point,
resource centre and meeting place to improve communication on HIV/AIDS and
other related issues.
Incorporating a library and meeting space and providing
access to information on HIV/AIDS, counselling and testing, local NGOs and
community events, the Action Centre is there for anyone who wants to research,
network, share ideas, volunteer or seek advice.
Health and Development Networks, 22-22/1, Soi 1,
Ratchaphakhinai Rd, Chiang Mai (near Chiang Peuak Gate), open Mon–Fri 10
a.m.-12 noon and 2-4 p.m. telephone 053 418 438 or email:
The Doctor's Consultation: Can check-ups save your life?
by Dr. Iain Corness
Can check-ups save your life? This is actually far more
complicated than it seems on an initial glance. The answer being that yes
indeed, check-ups can save your life, but on the other hand, regular check-ups
do not guarantee that you are going to live forever! Regardless of all the
advances in modern medicine, the death rate will always be the same - one per
What prompted me to write about this subject was the
situation one of my acquaintances found himself in last month. This chap has
been having regular annual check-ups for some years, and everything was going
along fine. Till this year! This examination turned up an Abdominal Aortic
Aneurysm, which we medico’s abbreviate as an AAA, but it is nothing to do
with your credit rating!
Now an AAA is a swelling of the main artery running from
the heart down into the abdomen. They can be slow growing, the dilation taking
many years - or they can be fast and catastrophic. Catastrophic, because if
one bursts, you have no chance. You will be dead before you get to ER, as your
heart happily pumps the life-sustaining red fluid into your abdom U.N. chief
says AIDS epidemic is accelerating on every continent and calls for more
AAA is a relatively common finding in people over the age
of 50, and when we find one the immediate concern is whether this is something
that has been there for years, or is this something that has just happened and
is a veritable hand-grenade in your belly, waiting for the pin to be pulled!
So now you can see one advantage of the annual check-up.
With my friend, it was not evident 12 months before, but was now fairly large.
Answer to the question was not to hang around and watch and see how quickly it
grows - we knew that already! The answer was to open him up, remove the
dilated aortic section, replacing it with high quality medical-grade garden
hose, and he was fine. And should be fine for the rest of his days, but he
will continue to have annual check-ups, having been given a ‘reprieve’
this time. Money well spent, too, I might add.
There are many other life threatening conditions that can
be turned up in an annual check-up, and many factors measured that can
influence the course of life threatening diseases. Blood sugar levels and
cholesterol levels being obvious markers that can herald diseases that can be
just around the corner, both diabetes and coronary artery disease. Again, the
rate of progression can be measured and it is the annual comparison that makes
these regular check-ups such a good idea, from the point of view of preventive
medicine. Taken today, the blood sugar may be “normal”, but if it has been
steadily going up within that “normal” range for the past few years, you
can almost pin-point the time when the level will be outside of the normal
range. The same goes for cholesterol and other factors such as PSA (Prostate
Specific Antigen) for the men over 40 years. While PSA is not the be all and
end all of the prostatic cancer story, the rate of progression of PSA levels
is a very useful indicator. So again you need more than one estimation - you
need a series.
Even simple tests such as blood pressure and weight become
more significant and predictive when you can compare today’s results with
ones taken 12, 24 and 36 months ago.
Yes, I do believe in regular check-ups, and before you ask,
yes, I do have an annual check-up myself! (Occasionally I practice what I
I regularly take an early morning stroll along Beach Road and have become
fascinated by a female street cleaner. She has the most sparkling eyes I
have ever seen. They are dark brown and reflect the first rays of morning
light. When she looks at me, she flutters her long, curly lashes in a
provocative manner. Unfortunately her eyes are all I can see, as her face
is completely covered by a veil protecting her from the dust and the
elements. I’ve tried talking with her but she apparently doesn’t speak
English. In stead she hums the old Beatles song, ‘Love Me Do,’ as she
swishes her broom around me. Are her mannerisms indicative of a female
trying to sweep me off my feet and how can I entice her to reveal herself?
Dear Mighty Mouse,
How the ‘mighty’ hath fallen - now we’re infatuated with street
cleaners! When will this ever end? Or where? My poor little Mouse, since
when have you been combing the lovelorn streets at first light? That’s
around six in the morning, my Petal. Mornings don’t have a six o’clock
unless you’re coming home late. No wonder you’ve fallen for the lady
with the birch broom after fruitlessly traipsing the streets all night.
However, on second thoughts, are you a masochist, looking for a right
proper birching? (Always keep in mind the difference between sadists and
masochists. The easy way to remember is that a sadist is someone who is
nice to a masochist.) As far as revealing herself to you, have you tried
500 baht? The old ‘purple persuaders’ never fail. But, I say again,
little Mouse, you should be happily tucked up in your mouse hole when the
first rays of morning light strike the accumulated rubbish in the gutters.
I was shocked to see that that Michael Jackson person was let off in
America. How could this be? Our group were quite sure that justice would
be served. Anybody who has been following the case from the beginning
could see that he should have gone down for a long stretch. What do you
feel about this, Hillary?
Your last name certainly wasn’t Jackson, was it, Petal. Honestly,
Hillary does not want to get into this case, or any others, about which I
know nothing other than what comes out of pulp media and that dreadfully
biased American TV “news” reporting. Quite frankly, I know of nobody
who has been following the case from the beginning. None of my friends
were that interested - they had their own lives to lead. The case was
tried under the American judicial system and the 12 tried and true jurors
found him innocent. End of story, and let’s get on with our lives. Your
group interests me, though. Do you all wear funny pointed hats and bed
My husband and I are both getting on and are forced to use reading
glasses. This would be fine if we both used the same strength - we could
share, but this cannot happen because of two reasons. The first is that my
husband needs weaker ones than me, so he can use mine, but I cannot use
his. Second is the fact that he is a most forgetful man and loses his all
the time. I carefully look after mine, to find that he has lost his, taken
mine and lost them as well! This is driving me quietly batty. What do you
The answer is easy. Wear your glasses around your neck at all times and
refuse to let him borrow them. If you are in a restaurant then still
don’t pass over your spectacles either, but order for him - of course it
will be something he doesn’t particularly like, won’t it! Eventually
he must get the hint. Anyone who keeps on losing things is either doing it
deliberately to annoy or is truly dopey. You work out which one it is.
On Thai beaches there appears to be some sort of discrimination or secret
code. The beach concessionaires arrange the chairs in long rows at the
front closest to the sea which are taken up by foreigners, while they
arrange the chairs in squares, with the seats facing each other for the
Thai’s. Is this a deliberate thing or what? I know you will know the
answer, Hillary, you seem to know the answer to everything else.
Thank you for the vote of confidence, though I must say, my little friend
Mighty Mouse is worrying me these days! We’ve had this query before, but
it is simple to answer. The farang holidaymakers go to the beach to lie in
the sun and try to get brown, so that when they go back to their home
countries their friends all say, “Haven’t you got a lovely tan!” You
will therefore find them lying, covered in oil and slowly broiling on all
sides. The Thais, by comparison, go to the beach to have fun and chat with
their friends and stay out of the sun as much as possible, so they don’t
get a tan! You will have noticed that the deck chairs in square formation
are grouped around a table and underneath beach umbrellas. So it’s
different strokes for different folks, I guess.
Camera Class: Become a composer for maximum effect
by Harry Flashman
is it that makes some photographs stand out from others? Why are some portraits
so powerful visually, and others merely snaps of people? Even photographs of the
same seashore or mountain range landscape can be eye-catching or dull. What is
the secret? What is the difference?
It certainly is not a technical reason relating to exposure
values. With the increasing sophistication of today’s automatic cameras the
vast majority of photographs are properly exposed. The new film stock materials
are also such that the colour renditions are very satisfactory these days.
Auto-focus will keep the subject sharp, so it is not the fuzzy photo problem
either. So what then differentiates a “good” photo from a “bad” or
excellent composition by Ernie Kuehnelt
The simple answer is our old friend “composition”. Put
another way, understanding photographic composition is the key to getting great
photographs. Now the so-called ‘photographers eye’ is something that you may
or may not be blessed with, but there are some easy hints which will improve the
composition of your shots and the final effect of any of your photographs.
The first rule of composition is to “Look for a Different
viewpoint”. While the standard, “Put the Subject in the Middle of the
Viewfinder” idea will at least ensure that you do get a picture of the
subject, it will also ensure that your photographs will most likely be dull and
In attempting to get that different viewpoint also try to
take some shots not from the standard eye-level position. Squat down, lie down,
stand in the back of a pick-up, climb a ladder - anything! Just don’t get
stuck with standard eye-level views. If nothing else, take two shots, one in the
“usual” horizontal format and the second one in a vertical (portrait)
format. That’s at least a start!
The next way to add interest to your photographs is to take
the subject out of the geometric centre of the frame. Be brave and place the
subject one third in from either edge of the viewfinder. Just by placing your
subject off-centre immediately drags your shot out of the “ordinary” basket.
The technocrats call this the “Rule of Thirds”, but you don’t need to know
the name for it - just try putting the subjects off-centre. Some of the latest
cameras, such as the Nikon D2X reviewed a couple of weeks back, even
electronically monitors for placement one third in.
While still on the Rule of Thirds, don’t have the horizon
slap bang in the centre of the picture either. Put it one third from the top or
one third from the bottom. As a very rough rule of thumb, if the sky is
interesting put more of it in the picture, but if it is featureless blue or
Bangkok grey include less of it. Simple!
Now what else can you do to improve those shots of yours? One
good little trick is to include some details in the foreground of a shot to lead
your eye towards the main subject. Look for lines, roads, telephone wires,
fences etc with strong lines to include in the shot. Arrange the picture so that
the lines “point” towards your main subject. Even without lines, a few
foreground details also help add interest to any photograph.
One foreground detail to always look for is the possibility
of producing a “frame” around the main subject. We call this the “Frame
within a Frame” technique. It is a very successful way to convert an ordinary
shot into one with a lot of visual appeal. And this is indeed a successful ploy
in photo competitions. You will see the technique used over and over, and yet it
does not lose its appeal.
Perhaps the last tip in making your shots more interesting is to include
people in them where possible. That shot of sweeping rolling hills always looks
better if you can put some human interest into it as well. A girl on a horse, a
couple on a seat or a jogger all help to elevate a landscape above the hum-drum.
Always look to add the human element as it gives relative size, if nothing else.
Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums
by Dr Byte, Citec Asia
I am often asked for an opinion about Google and the many
little add-ons they provide. Accepting that Google’s interest in all this is
to drive you to Google rather than the competition, they actually do provide
some useful tools.
George runs an internet cafe not far from Chanklan Road and
he asked me about the free Google tool bar that can integrate with his browser.
When you’re looking for something specific on the web, having an assistant
(especially a Google assistant) to help your research can be really handy. But
there are plenty of other browser add-ins you can use and two of the most useful
are the Google toolbar and GuruNet. They work in different ways but both improve
your surfing experience and the quality of results.
The Google toolbar helps when surfing by offering a way to
perform a Google search without having to visit Google first, thus saving an
entire step. The toolbar includes a Browse By Name option allowing you to type a
name in the Internet Explorer address bar and letting it find the appropriate
site for you. The tool bar now also features a spell check, word translator and
for lucky US users, a street auto link tool.
This tool is useful when the site you’re looking for
doesn’t have an obvious web address. When a good match isn’t found, Google
shows a search results page with a list of possible matches. To enable this,
from the Google toolbar, choose Options and check the Enable Browse By Name in
your browser’s address bar checkbox.
Using the Google toolbar, you can search for websites as well
as images on the web, Google Groups (newsgroups) and Froogle, its new shopping
site. It also has a handy pop-up blocker which stops most of them and lets you
easily view those that you want to see.
Google will, if you choose to do so, store your personal data
for faster form completion.
Type your data into its AutoFill tab (click Options,
AutoFill), and when a form appears for which Google has your details, it will
colour the form fields yellow to indicate that it can automatically complete
them from the data it has stored about you.
Click the AutoFill button to complete the form with this
data. You will find this tool saves time when completing online forms.
Perhaps the nicest part of Google toolbar involves searching.
Type words describing what you’re looking for in the search area and click
Search Web. When you find and open a site that matches your search, the words
you queried appear as hotlinks in the toolbar. Click any one of them to jump to
the first instance of that word on the page. This feature saves you from having
to use Edit, Find to locate the data manually. You can also click to have search
terms highlighted on the page, if you prefer.
GuruNet has been around for years and was previously known as
Atomica. It operates in a number of ways either as a browser toolbar or a small
application in your taskbar into which you can type a word or topic.
GuruNet’s strength is in providing resource material and
information on your desktop so you don’t always have to go out looking for it.
For students and anyone who enjoys researching topics and who has an “always
on” internet connection, it’s an excellent tool.
The GuruNet browser toolbar looks very much like Google’s
and has a search area, a pop-up blocker and a translation button for translating
pages. Use the taskbar tool to access a dictionary definition of a word as well
as encyclopaedia references and websites containing information about the topic.
It’s like having a small collection of reference material on your desktop
If you’re working on a project, for example a document in
Word, Alt + Click on a word and GuruNet will pop up automatically with
information or a definition of the word, depending on what it relates to. Of
course, you must be connected to the web for all this to happen as the resource
material you are accessing is on the web and not your computer. You can also
work from the GuruNet window and type the text you’re interested in.
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 you’re 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: Property
MBMG International Ltd.
Could 2005 be the year that Anglo Saxon economies finally
see their property markets come under strain and actually realise negative
returns for the year?
Well, if ABN AMRO and many others are to be believed this
could be very well be the year. In the UK house prices fell continuously in
the last six months of 2004. The excess supply of properties on the market
has yet again increased. In November 2004 every county except Cheshire
reported falls in the price of housing. The following makes for bleak
* Mortgage approvals in the UK have fallen 40% from their
peak and survey data suggests house price are falling rapidly (the UK
mortgage approvals graph illustrates this all to well).
* First time homeowners have all but disappeared from the
UK property market. Their share of new purchases has fallen from long run
average of 50% to 30%.
* The long-run house-price to earnings ratio in the UK is
4. It was bad enough getting a 5ฝ-times earnings mortgage in the late
1980s when average earnings growth was running in double digits. After 8
years, incomes would double, making it easier to pay back debt.
* But it is disastrous to get a current 6ฝ-times
earnings mortgage now when earnings growth is around 4ฝ% pa (so it
takes 16 years for incomes to double). How are today’s first-time buyers
ever going to repay their debts?
* On top of all of this, interest rates have moved up in
the UK, so servicing the debt has become more difficult.
* It has also discouraged the buy-to-let investors, as
their rental yields have fallen at the same time that mortgage rates have
increased. According to ABN AMRO, there is now a negative carry of around
2.5% for buy-to-let investors.
* In the US, the property market does not look much
* But they are of the view that until the Fed gets more
aggressive on rate hikes, the property bubble will only get bigger.
* Factors that worry them about the US market are the
very high vacancy rates and the relative rating of house prices to average
disposable income. (See US bubble trouble graph)
US house prices were up by an average of 9% in 2004.
Sales of existing homes have set an all time high over the last 12 months.
Some people on Wall Street remain bullish on property. In truth though, the
only ones insisting that there is no ‘bubble’ is those who are involved
in the construction industry and those who want to sell their houses at
vastly inflated prices. The real question is not if but when the bubble will
As regular readers of this column will know, we believe
that everything is cyclical - nothing keeps going up or down forever. The
property market has had its run and now it is time for something else. An
interesting article appeared recently in the Daily Business Review which is
a local paper in Miami. It cites the case of the Chief Operating Office of a
local company selling nearly 100,000 shares in Lennar commom. He made about
USD5 million. Now, insiders may have all kinds of good reasons of reselling
but, as we have said before, anticipation that the stock is going to go up
is not one of them.
The Gold Rush mentality has many economists concerned.
Some are even liking it to the dot.com frenzy of a few years ago -
especially as people are paying for property that has not even been built
yet and they are just buying from floor plans and maps on a website. It is
time to wake up and smell the coffee.
Realtors (real estate agents) forget to mention what has
happened before - sorry it is time for another cyclical history lesson here.
In New York median sales prices peaked at USD375,000 in 1987 before plunging
45% to a low of USD205,000 in 1995. Median prices did not climb back up to
their 1980’s prices again until 2000. In the North-east, the National
Association of Realtors said that median sales prices fell by 11% from 1988
to 1989 and did not return to 1988 levels until 2001.
The biggest threat to the housing boom will be a sharp
increase in mortgage rates. “That will quickly knock the wind out of these
housing markets and the psychology will reverse as quickly as it
appeared,” said Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Economy.com
Interestingly enough, these brokers are not as concerned
about property in Euroland, largely because they do not see the ECB raising
rates any time soon.
Yes, property has appreciated aggressively in some parts
of Europe, but as they point out, valuation per se is not enough of a
trigger to lead to a collapse in prices.
The other point to note about property in Euroland is that even if prices
were to come off the boil, the impact on consumer spending would not be too
disastrous. This is as a result of the fact that it is far harder for
consumers to release proceeds from their mortgages, relative to those in the
US and the UK.
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
Life in the Laugh Lane: Have you seen my glasses?
by Scott Jones
My optician loves me. Every couple months I visit wearing my
severely scratched, backup, geek glasses, smile meekly, order a new pair and
give her my credit card. Smart people get cheap disposable contacts, but I get
expensive disposable glasses which are either self-mutilated in a chair or on
the floor or mysteriously squirt out of the known universe. It’s hard to find
your glasses when you don’t have them on to find them with.
you sure I need all these for one prescription?
I’ve worn glasses since I was about 9. I suspect my
parents didn’t buy them earlier because of the amusement they got watching me
walk into walls or use hair gel instead of toothpaste. When they gave me a
seeing-eye gerbil, I’d had enough and went downtown to find an eye doctor. In
his office, I said, “Doctor, I think I need glasses.” He said, “You
certainly do, my boy. This is a bank.” Later an optometrist (wearing comic
book spectacles that made his eyeballs look like tiny, bulbous marbles
suspended at the end of a long tunnel near the back of his brain) said,
“You’re very near-sighted and have bad astigmatism.” (“Astigmatism”
wasn’t in my dictionary but “stigma” was and it didn’t sound good. A
stigma: “a strong feeling in society that having a particular illness is
something to be ashamed of.”) I imagined my lenses would be as thick as glass
blocks and require scaffolding on my head to support them or at least strips of
Velcro surgically fastened to my nose.
A month later I was in ecstasy, reading signs from afar and
able to stare at girls in grade school without being so close they could feel
my hot adolescent breath on their neck. Years later I tried the first contact
lenses on the market made from some hard, painful material like quartz crystals
or thinly sliced diamonds. They felt like refrigerators in my eyes and cost
about as much. To blink I had to manually lift the lids over the lenses. My
eyes flooded with tears making my vision similar to snorkelling without a face
mask. Touted to improve sight, especially while driving, they didn’t help. I
was stopped by a policeman who asked, “Where are your glasses? Your license
says you need to wear them.” I said, “Sir, I have contacts.” He said,
“I don’t care who you know. I’m giving you a ticket.”
The good news? Bad eyesight kept me out of military service
during the Vietnam War even though I had a bumper sticker that read: “Join
the Army. Travel to distant lands, meet exotic people and kill them.” Being a
gentle man who only shoots animals or humans with a camera, it was good for me
and the country. No one wanted a sightless pacifist accidentally wasting his
comrades or demanding to be equipped with a seeing-eye gerbil.
I’ve lost several pairs of glasses around Chiangmai. If you find a very
strong pair, you’ll know they’re mine if you put them on and actually see
the smaller moons around Mars, God him or her-self, and perhaps even into the
future. Please send them back to me so I can get rid of the gerbil.