Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: TB on the way up, not the way out

Preeyanoot Jittawong

A seminar was held on June 22 at the Empress Chiang Mai Hotel, to inform the public about tuberculosis and in support of the Global Fund against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Prof. Dr. Pongsiri Prattanadee, president of Chiang Mai Tuberculosis Repression Association at the seminar.

The Chiang Mai Tuberculosis Repression Association, under the Patronage of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana Krom Luang Naradhiwat Rajanagarindra, in conjunction with the Office of Disease Prevention and Control, 10 Chiang Mai, and the Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, organized the seminar.

Prof. Pongsiri Prattana, president of Chiang Mai Tuberculosis Repression Association, was joined by Assoc. Prof. Chaichan Potirat, lecturer of Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, CMU, to describe and discuss the disease, its cause and prevention. At present, tuberculosis is still a disease with significant mortality.

Thailand is in the 17th position for tuberculosis as reported by the WHO in 2005, with 19 deaths per 100,000 citizens. The Upper northern regions have 6,000-7,000 patients.

One cause of the spread of tuberculosis is HIV, reducing the body’s resistance, making HIV patients more at risk.


The Doctor's Consultation: Can you die from diarrhoea?

by Dr. Iain Corness

Yes you can die from diarrhoea (also spelled as “diarrhea, if you come from the left hand side of the Atlantic Ocean). Diarrhoea is that fun condition where all of a sudden you get that urgency to go to the toilet which cannot be denied! The last time I had this, after visiting the loo three times in the first hour, being the well prepared doctor that I am, I went to the medicine chest to grab some Imodium or Lomotil, those magic medications that are the next best thing to a cork. Needless to say there were none as I had not replaced the last lot! Consequently, that same urgency lasted all night, with regular half hourly ensuite journeys.

The scenario, as painted above, is typical of a food poisoning case. The body knows it has a problem and does its level best to expel the problem. Noisily! (And with malodour!)

There are those that say you benefit from a good “cleanout” but I am not so sure. Whilst I am certainly now sparkling clean from the back of my tonsils to my back side it has left me feeling weak and exhausted and decidedly not thinking that this episode has been beneficial. As for those who front up regularly for a colonic washout - Gentlemen, include me out, as Sam Goldwyn once said.

So what is this diarrhoea disease? Well, the first thing is that it is not a disease - it is a symptom. Diarrhoea, that certain looseness of the bowels can be caused by a virus, a bacterium, stress, antibiotics and a host of other conditions, including cancer. However, the vast majority of cases of acute diarrhoea are a simple infection and self limiting - in other words, you will get over it (just as I did). An exception should be stated here, as acute diarrhoea in young children should not be ignored as it can be fatal. The reason is that children have a much smaller circulating blood volume and can go into ‘shock’ or circulatory collapse very quickly.

Chronic diarrhoea is a different matter. Recurrent chronic diarrhoea should never be ignored as this can be caused by much more important, and dangerous conditions. Blood with the diarrhoea makes it even more imperative that you seek advice, diagnosis and treatment and not just swallow a handful of pills every couple of days. The causes here may include alcohol, thyroid problems, pancreatic problems, celiac disease, colonic cancer, parasitic infections etc, etc, etc. Again, not the conditions you would want to choose for yourself and definitely not cured by Imodium!

The investigations necessary to diagnose the cause of chronic diarrhoea are as varied as the causes themselves. It will be necessary to do complete blood testing, covering liver, pancreas and thyroid, as well as the standard full blood count. Examination of the stool is also required, both through the microscope and attempting to culture (grow) any bugs. This is also not just one stool specimen, but generally one a day for three days. It will also be likely that we will have to pass the “black snake” up your bottom, more properly called a flexible sigmoidoscope and probably snip a couple of pieces of tissue as well as biopsy material to be examined under the microscope.

The treatment of chronic diarrhoea depends upon the cause, though the simple symptomatic treatment (Imodium/Lomotil) can be used while awaiting the results of the further testing, but I cannot stress enough that all cases of chronic diarrhoea must be thoroughly investigated. All cases! And never neglect diarrhoea in the little ones. It can be fatal.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
“Chocs and bubbly, lovely jubbly!” So says Derek Trotter of Trotter’s Independent Traders (Bangkok and Koh Peckham) who has just discovered a stash in his lock-up. Delchai will be on his way as soon as he has found the dipstick for the van.
Mistersingha

Dear Mistersingha,
I didn’t know you drove a van.
Dear Hillary,
Why is it that song taew drivers all over Thailand are so rude and ignorant? Is it part of their training course to be so surly? Don’t they realize they are part of the tourism experience for many visitors. They should be put to work sweeping the roads, not driving on them.
Vic the frequent Visitor

Dear Visitor Vic,
And what, pray tell, makes you think that road sweepers are rude and ignorant, so much so that the song taew drivers would fit in immediately? Where would the song taew drivers carry their five baht pieces? And they would waste all that horn training too. Have you ever seen the size of their left thumbs? Huge! No, Vic, let’s keep the street sweepers as the friendly and happy folk that they all are. What has to be done is to get rid of the song taews, a feat that successive city mayors have found to be too difficult.
Dear Hillary,
Every day when I open up my email account it is full of offensive emails from people I have never met and I find it annoying, to say the least. Is there nothing we ordinary folk can do to stop this kind of thing? 90 percent of them seem to be sites with pornographic material and yet when you try to send an email to them to stop further messages from these people, you can’t get through. What do you suggest, Hillary? I’m sure your email letterbox must get stuffed full too.
Tired of it all

Dear Tired of it all,
One certain thing is my letterbox is certainly not full of chocolates and champers from that Mistersingha, my Petal! If you have an email account that you open every day, you should also know that you can block much of this spam before you download. You can also just bring down the headers and trash the ones that are obviously rubbish before opening. Most servers have a ‘block sender’ facility where you can stop that particular pest or porn purveyor from ever reaching your in box again.
Dear Hillary,
I am very attracted to my mate’s wife. She is Thai and very beautiful and she has been making it obvious that the feeling is mutual. I know she has been seeing other guys while her husband is offshore. Should I follow my heart? Should I tell my mate about her and me, or should I not bother with her and tell him about the flings she has while he’s away?
Mate’s mate

Dear Mate’s mate,
With friends like you, who needs enemies? You should not write about following your heart, you haven’t got one. One minute you are ready to run off with your mate’s wife, or perhaps you’ll spill the beans about her supposed infidelities. But if you do have a heart, it’s “jai dam”, something you should not be proud of. I hope your mate finds you and teaches you a couple of physical lessons. You deserve it. If your mate is not of the physical type, tell him to contact me. I know of a couple of underemployed Muay Thai exponents who’d love to help him.
Dear Hillary,
My maid drives me completely insane. She speaks little English and I am not fluent in Thai; however, we usually get by with a few words and mime. She horrifies me by putting all the dishes and glasses and pans together in the sink and attempting to wash them with cold running water. Or she will wipe the floor with a dishcloth. I patiently explain and demonstrate the way I want it done, and it is fine for a while then she will go back to the old ways. Most times she will put ironed clothes away in right place but sometimes for no apparent reason will leave them on the lounge room chair or dresser. Most of the time she does an average to below average job infuriatingly slowly, though sometimes she will do something bizarre such as leaving drying washing in kitchen. If I want something in particular done which should just be routine surely, like dusting the furniture or defrosting the fridge, I have to ask her every single time. I truly do not know how to make her more efficient. I already pay her 4,000 baht a month. Do you have any suggestions?
Jemima

Dear Jemima,
For a start you may have to lower your standards, which are probably set a little too high for the local situation. To preserve your sanity simply do not watch her doing the housework. Go out have fun, change your focus and adopt a “mai pen rai” attitude. If you cannot simply learn to put up and shut up, then pay more, approximately double, and hire an English speaking trained housemaid. The other alternative is to do it all yourself. The choice is yours.


Camera Class: Shooting neon made simple

by Harry Flashman

If you are ever in Pattaya, head up Soi Pattayaland 2 one night and just look upwards. The street is a veritable illuminated forest of neon. There must be more neon tubes per cubic metre than anywhere else in the world. Even visitors from Las Vegas stand and stare. In other cities you will also find meters of coloured neon lighting, especially in the nightlife areas. Neon is universal, and unfortunately universally misunderstood by most photographers.

These are the tourists who have the camera slung round their necks and out it is whipped to record this neon wonderland for the folks back home. With a spitting flash, the auto-focus camera grinds away, but when the traveller gets his prints back, he or she is going to be very disappointed. That huge neon glow comes out as a thin thready coloured tube and nothing like what they saw that night. Why? Did the photo-processor get it wrong? Was it done on the wrong sort of film? Did the camera get it wrong?

Simple answer is no, none of the above. The failure to record neon lighting was because the photographer believed the auto camera’s suggestion that since it was night, flash must be used. In fact, most auto cameras these days will automatically get the flash ready by sundown. This, unfortunately, is where the modern cameras are just too smart for themselves. A flash is the last thing you need when taking neon lights. The reason for this is quite simple - the strong white flash burst totally overpowers the weaker neon illumination and washes out all the pretty colours (the reason you wanted to take the shot in the first place!).

The first item you need to research in the auto camera’s manual is how to turn the flash OFF. The reason for this is again simple - when you photograph neon, you must make the neon tubes themselves the light source. Not the flash.

So what shutter speed and aperture settings should you use? If you have an auto setting on the camera, or you are using a fully automatic point and shooter then you are already set up. No fancy calculations are required. The camera’s meter will do it all for you. For once, I am happy to let the electronic brain do its thing (but without the flash).

However, since you are dealing with a low light situation the shutter speeds will be fairly slow, often down around 1/15th to 1/8th of a second. At these sorts of speeds you will not hand-hold and get ultimate sharpness in your prints. This is the time to use a tripod or hold the camera firmly on the roof of a parked car to stop blurring. Or even one of those dinky little table-top tripods.

If you want to get technical and do it all manually, then meter from the neon glow itself and then shoot not only at that setting, but also from one stop below and one stop above. This the pros call “bracketing” and it just simply increases your chances of getting a good shot. In the photography bizz, a pro must come back with the goods - no excuses are acceptable! Not even torrential rain, or polar bears out without a leash.

Now, to really go to town with the neon sign effects, get out your filters. If you have a soft focus one, then put it on for a couple of shots. Another interesting variant is to tightly stretch a nylon stocking over the lens. The result here will be a “halo” around the neon and can make for a very attractive photograph. Try putting a “starburst” or a rainbow filter on too. Just to get something different.

And looking for something really different? Another great visual effect is to put the camera on the tripod and use a zoom lens. Select a shutter speed of around ten seconds and slowly “zoom” in or away from the neon light while the shutter is open. You will get something very different with this technique. Something like a 3D movement effect.

Try some neon shots this weekend - just remember to turn the flash off!


Money Matters: Thailand property boom or bust?

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

One of the hottest property investment markets in Asia is Thailand. Growing numbers of expatriates living in Asia as well as retiring Europeans have set their sights on Thailand because of its quality of life, low cost of living, affordability in buying a property, and the opportunity to have a base in Asia from which to work in the region.

Bangkok, Pattaya and Koh Samui are some of the main destinations attracting foreign investors. Naturally, people will also want to return to Southern Thailand – especially Phuket and Krabi – although the markets there are still overshadowed by memories of the tragic tsunami. Other destinations include Chiang Mai and Hua Hin, which are also growing.

Compared to the prices for city property in other Asian countries, it is easy to see why Bangkok has become so popular. Residential condo prices are the most affordable and some of the lowest in Asia when compared to Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Sydney.

High-end condos in the Sukhumvit/Silom areas are selling in the THB 90-100,000 per square metre range (US$2,300-2,600/sqm) compared to Hong Kong (US$9,000/sqm), Singapore (US$6,000/sqm), Tokyo (US$7,500/sqm) and Sydney (US$7,000/sqm) making Bangkok condos a relatively cheap investment option in dollar terms, which is one of the factors attracting overseas investors.

However, over the next two-three years there will be quite a few new high end residential condo projects in the Silom and Sukhumvit areas coming onto the market, many of which will be hard to sell quickly in the current over-supplied market. Coupled with high oil prices (which translates in to higher building costs for developers), a slowing US economy, rising interest rates and falling rental yields, sales targets will be hard to reach, especially in the buy-to-let investment market.

The good news for investors is that developers facing rising costs, slower sales and more competition and will be forced to offer more incentives in order to sell their projects. So if you are thinking of a second home or a permanent residence in Bangkok wait for a while as 2006-7 should be a good time to look for the best deals – although in the second hand sector there are such variations in price that there are bargains out there all the time, although finding them can take time.

For those thinking of lifestyle opportunities, Phuket has been a major destination for years. Even post-tsunami it will continue to be dominated and driven by foreign investors looking for investment property or a permanent address for residence. With excellent infrastructure, direct flights to most cities in the region and a range of resort style projects to choose from, starting from 8 million baht up to 40 million baht or so, demand is expected to remain strong.

For those looking for something a little more idyllic, investment orientated and more affordable, Koh Samui is a gold mine of opportunity for investors and home owners. With property values growing at something like 20 percent a year driven by tourism and property development, and land values still 40-50 percent lower than similar plots in Phuket, there is still a lot of growth in the market.

However, compared to Phuket the number of good boutique projects currently available offering professional management is still small and buyers need to do their homework before buying. But over the next five years local real estate agents foresee an increasing number of new quality developments on offer that will bring greater investment dollars into the Samui market and, with it, higher prices.

Coupled with the launch of more five star hotel developments (Four Seasons and the Marriott) and new tourism projects such as the development of a second golf course and a planned new marina, larger numbers of investors and tourists to the island will follow.

In summary, the Thai market is one of the most affordable and sought after in Asia, and it will continue to attract strong private and corporate investors into Bangkok and established resort areas.

As those of you who know me will attest to, I have been eulogising the benefits of the Eastern Seaboard for many years now. Business now seems to have fully recovered from the doldrums incurred since 1997. More and more investment, both local and foreign, is pouring into the region and the large industrial estates such as Hemaraj and Amata are having to buy more land to build on just to keep pace.

International hotels are now either already building in Pattaya or are looking to start in the near future. International developers are doing the same. As the infrastructure to the region improves and the new international airport is up and running more and more people will be coming to Pattaya to live. There is even the chance of it turning into a commuter town for Bangkok within the next ten years.

How long will this last? Nobody knows. However, one thing is for certain, whilst prices remain as they are throughout South East Asia, Thailand offers some of the best deals to be had anywhere in the region.

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: Two million cleaning ladies

by Scott Jones

As a child, I was very young. I used to harass ants, stomp on their hills and throw burning sticks in their path. Later I collected insects, gassed them in jars with formaldehyde and pinned them to boards. It’s pay back time. These gruesome tales traveled through the ant world and now the ants harass me, though they haven’t use fire or pins yet.

My cleaning ladies work 24/7 for free.

Of the 10,000 known ant species, approximately 9487 live in or near my bungalow. Big, nasty thugs from the red ant mafia. Almost invisible ones composed of nine ant molecules. Carpenter ants the size of horse pills wearing utility belts with hammers and hacksaws. Small, medium and large generic black ants marching 20 deep in columns extending from somewhere in or near my bungalow to somewhere else in or near my bungalow.

For a few futile days I reverted to childhood and waged an Ant War with traps, poisons and Britney Spears songs played at high volume. The odds were against me: one to several million. They’ve owned this land for thousands of years and I’m just visiting. Now, instead of expensive poison bait inside, I place a cheap buffet of sugar outside. (At least I know where one end of their column is.) The same concept removes unruly stray dogs. Just throw a dead chicken into your neighbor’s yard.

If you think you have problems, imagine facing the daily dangers of an ant. As you walk to the market, a spray can larger than the Goodyear blimp exterminates thousands. While relaxing in the sun with your kids and eggs, a broom the size of a soccer field whisks your neighborhood into the next county. While hunting alone for food, suddenly a finger as big as a skyscraper streaks out of the sky and scrapes you into oblivion.

The worker ants are actually quite helpful: industrious, organized cult members that work 24/7…all female. As a million flying termites descend on my bungalow at night, two million cleaning ladies efficiently begin corpse removal. With superhero muscles they carry up to 50 times their weight. With that strength, I could lift 3500 kilos: very handy in tight parallel parking situations. Get out of the car, pick it up and set it in place. Overcharged by the minibus from the airport? Carry the bus and driver to a bridge and hang them over the river until he sees it your way.

Searching the web for classified ant security data and elimination techniques, I found stories (obviously originating in Thailand) about the largest ant, the elephANT, and its strange relationship with other ants. What game do ants play with elephants? (Squash.) Why did the elephant lay his trunk in the path? (Trying to trip ants.) Why did the ant lay on its back in the jungle? (Trying to trip elephants.) What did the ant say on the elephant’s wedding day? (“You’re getting married? But I’m pregnant with your baby!”)

Being a bike safety addict, this news item tickled me. While riding his new motorbike, Mr. Ant met an elephant wanting a lift to the market. Mr. Ant said, “Hop on.” Later he picked up two more elephants and the four of them headed to town. A truck screeched to a halt in front of them and they crashed into it. Paramedics arrived to find unconscious elephants, near death…but Mr. Ant only had a few minor injuries. (Why? He was wearing a helmet.) Carrying three elephants, the ambulance sped to the hospital as several ants followed on motorbikes. (Why? To donate blood.)