Columns
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

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: Six million HIV infections can be averted in the Asia Pacific region in the next five years if prevention services are rapidly expanded

Impact of HIV/AIDS on children could be minimised if parents remain free of HIV

7th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific press release

Without immediate and extraordinary action on AIDS, the Asia Pacific region will see 12 million new HIV infections in the next five years. If urgent measures are adopted, that number can be cut in half.

While much attention has been devoted in recent years to scaling-up treatment for those already living with HIV/AIDS, the delegates at the 7th ICAAP congress earlier this month reiterated the need to focus our efforts as well on preventing further infections from happening in the first place.

New information on the regional HIV/AIDS epidemic have highlighted that the worst HIV predictions of the past are coming true: Asia and the Pacific countries now stand at a crucial ‘tipping point’ with a dangerous cocktail of risk factors in place that will lead to rapid and irreversible expansion of HIV spread if left unchecked.

One presentation after another at the conference indicated that previous warnings have not been adequately heeded, and that today there is widespread injecting drug use, rising rates of sex work among young women under 25, and that there is high HIV prevalence – and low access to HIV prevention services – among all vulnerable groups.

Despite some early successes in addressing HIV spread in countries such as Thailand, where a massive 100% condom campaign was implemented in the mid-90s, large-scale interventions are in decline and today are relatively scarce in the region. As a consequence, condom use has fallen to extremely low levels, for example, and HIV testing coverage is minimal.

Years of low HIV levels do not protect countries from the threat of a major national epidemic, according to a statement issued by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) during the conference. Given that countries of the region make up half of the world’s population, even low HIV prevalence translates into millions of HIV infections.

That means countries such as Bangladesh, East Timor, Japan, Laos, Pakistan, and the Philippines – and many others – have golden opportunities to prevent serious outbreaks of HIV.

Immediately prior to the conference in Kobe, Japan, a new global strategy was launched to mobilize an intensification of HIV prevention. Aiming for a focus on HIV prevention to match the current attention on AIDS treatment, the new UN position paper is grounded in a number of essential principles crucial to the success of any effective HIV prevention effort. These include that all prevention programmes should be comprehensive in scope, evidence-based and must be fundamentally grounded in respect for human rights. Contrary to its treatment counterpart strategy, 3by5, the global prevention policy does not specify any global prevention targets it aims to achieve in the next five years.

The strategy underlines the gaps in existing HIV prevention actions and outlines essential policy and programmatic actions that must be taken to scale to bridge these gaps. Key to all HIV prevention efforts, the paper says, is that they should be ‘nationally owned and led’.

During ICAAP, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Family Health International (FHI) and Save the Children UK also highlighted the impact that a future runaway Asian epidemic would have on the children of the region.

They said that more than 1.5 million children in Asia and the Pacific are already orphaned by AIDS, according to new regional data, making protection, care and support efforts for children more urgent than ever.

While the number of children orphaned by AIDS is alarming, they represent only a segment of those affected by HIV/AIDS. Many more children in Asia and the Pacific are thought to be living with sick and dying parents or relatives and are at risk of losing their caregivers.

In addition to those orphaned by AIDS, another 121,000 children were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific by the end of 2004, with an estimated 47,000 children newly infected last year alone.

One of the assured ways to protect children from each of these fates is to reduce the number of new HIV infections among adults.

“This is an urgent wake up call for action,” said Anupama Rao Singh, regional director of UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office. “We not only have to do much more to protect and care for these children, but also step up primary prevention efforts to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.”


The Doctor's Consultation: Anti-cancer drug evaluations - have we cracked it this time?

by Dr. Iain Corness

“Wonder drugs” are always in the news, and anti-cancer ones particularly so. Most producers of these wonder compounds crave publicity, for some quite different reasons. Quite frankly, there are those who are out for commercial gain, and any articles will help them sell their products, whether it works or not. Others include “leaks” to the media done by bona fide researchers who need financial backing to continue their research, and some publicity helps in getting some dollars from benevolent organizations. However, sometimes there can be some real gold amongst the dross. 17AAG looks like it could be one of them.

This drug looks as if it actually does have the potential to produce regression of some forms of cancers, and is currently going through preliminary testing. Noted and authoritative researchers are quite optimistic following a trial funded by Cancer Research UK and conducted by Institute of Cancer Research scientists based at the Royal Marsden Hospital, London.

Professor John Toy, Cancer Research UK’s medical director said, “These results are very early and, although encouraging, much more work to assess the drug’s effect in large numbers of patients still needs to be done.”

Professor Peter Rigby, chief executive at the Institute of Cancer Research said, “This early trial indicates the potential of this drug for future cancer treatment. Although further trials need to be conducted, early indications suggest that the multi-pronged attack by this drug shows promise in treating a range of cancers.”

Patients taking part in the UK trial had cancers which included skin, breast, colon, ovarian, kidney, lung, and pancreas. This initial study was designed to see if the 17AAG drug worked at the biochemical level, where the drug targets a so-called ‘chaperone’ molecule called heat shock protein (Hsp) 90. By deactivating Hsp90, the drug simultaneously sabotages numerous other molecules critical to cancer growth. As a result, cancer cells stop growing and die.

Study leader Professor Paul Workman, from the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics in London said, “The results of this research suggest that, by blocking the action of Hsp90, the drug has the potential to attack cancer by shutting down a range of systems that cancer cells use to grow and spread.”

While the Institute of Cancer Research scientists found the drug 17AAG blocked breast, bowel, skin and prostate cancer in 30 patients as well as in the laboratory, and the Journal of Clinical Oncology study confirms 17AAG works, more trials are needed before the prototype becomes a real treatment option, experts say.

Now, before you put your hand up and say, “Pick me!” it is not so easy in these very early stages of this research. For example, one trial that has been running is looking at the use of 17AAG in a renal cancer situation. The list of exclusions is almost as long as the list of factors that must be exhibited by the patients before acceptance into the trial. For example, pregnant women are excluded from this study because 17AAG has the potential for teratogenic or abortifacient effects, and no data regarding its safety in pregnant women is available. Because there is an unknown but potential risk for adverse events in infants secondary to treatment of the nursing mother with 17AAG, this would also be an exclusion. And of course, any woman on the trial must not get pregnant either. HIV-positive patients are also excluded from the study because of unknown but potential pharmacokinetic interactions of anti-retroviral drugs with 17 AAG.

So while 17AAG looks promising, it’s really a long way off yet. Even if it works, what is the result of long term use of the “cure”? They don’t know and neither do we.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I have received a stack of papers from my wife in Korat via her lawyer asking for a divorce. I am not thrilled at the idea so I haven’t replied. We were married in the USA so do I have to divorce her there or can it be done in Thailand? Any idea how much it costs in Thailand?
Thanks, Jerry

Dear Jerry,
This really is a case for the lovelorn, isn’t it. I’m sorry to hear that your wife wants a divorce, but since I do not know what has prompted this, I can really do no more than send commiserations. As far as divorces go, no you do not have to go back to the US, it can be done here, as my recently divorced Scottish friend has just told me (he can be recognized by the big grin and two girls on each arm). Like all divorces, they are costly, but not overly so compared to America. Since she is making the running, you can proceed at your own pace, but I would always suggest that you establish dialogue as to why it has come to this situation. It is not the legal costs in severing the knot, it is the cost in property to be handed over, as well as the psychological cost involved in any split-up.
Dear Hillary,
You have probably heard this hundreds of times and may be able to help me in this problem I have. On my last trip to Thailand (my third this year) I fell in love with a most beautiful girl from a bar and against all the advice given by “old hands” I gave her money to set her up in a house for us both, which had to be in her name as it could not be done in mine, which I found out beforehand. We got along so well, I could not believe my luck. She went to a language school so that we could talk together (I am hopeless with languages, always have been). I had to do everything quickly as I was only here for three weeks. She contacted me every day by email and told me that she was setting up the house just for us, and I was just so happy. My work told me the good news that they wanted me to go to Singapore for a quick trip, so I thought I would I would quickly fly up to Thailand and surprise her. The surprise was all mine when I found out that she was living there with some German guy and had been for some time! Should I ask her to return the money? I feel totally cheated and I think it will be some time before I fall in love again, especially with a Thai girl.
Cheated

Dear Cheated,
Just who has cheated who in this sit-com drama? You admit that all the old hands warned you, but you went ahead anyway and all their predictions came true, although I don’t know that you can attach much blame to the German guy - he’s probably paid for the house as well. Petal, would you have done this in your own country? Within three weeks of knowing some girl from the local pub, would you be dragged down to the estate agents where you buy a house, and sign it over to her, while you then disappear, happy in the knowledge that she is “waiting” for you? You should be thankful that you didn’t buy her two houses, a motorbike for her brother and a couple of buffalo for her father. You can ask her to return the money, but I wouldn’t hold out much hope of ever seeing it. This has been an expensive lesson in love, but it is time that you grew up, I’m afraid.
Dear Hillary,
My Thai girlfriend tells me that she wants to get her breasts made bigger, which sounds just fine to me. She is Thai and so she doesn’t have much on top compared to the girls I am used to in England. The only problem is that she wants me to pay for them. Since it is round about 80,000 baht I would like to think I am going to get my money’s worth. For example, there’s no guarantee she’s going to stick around for ever, is there? Do you think I should go ahead with this, Hillary, or back out now?
Booby Bob

Dear Booby Bob,
You are wondering if you are going to get your 80,000 baht of value from the operation, if I read your letter correctly. It all depends upon what you call “value” my Petal. Really, you have not given me enough information to make such a value judgment, I’m afraid.
However, why don’t you just spend the 80,000 baht on yourself and get the silicone jobby done on yourself instead. This way you will be able to keep yourself happy for hours, in fact be totally self contained, so to speak, and you don’t have to worry about your super-endowed darling taking off with her expensive wobblers wrapped tightly in her 34 C bra. I’d think twice before agreeing to anything.


Camera Class: Can history repeat itself?

by Harry Flashman

Well, if it is in this column, history certainly can repeat itself. I was perusing some back issues and came across one of the first photography articles I wrote, which was entitled Frogs win world’s first! This was not a reference to football (soccer) at which the French have done reasonably well, but was an historical overview of the birth of photography and its progress, in which the French also did reasonably well! With the very rapid advances in photography and the recent technology, I felt it was worthwhile us all stopping to see just where photography has come from in the last 179 years.

Did you know that the French were the first to bring photography to the world? And no, it wasn’t somebody called Francois Kodak either (but more about that later)!

The first known “photographic” image was recorded in 1826 by a French gentleman called Nicephore Niepce. He managed to capture the view from his window, producing the image on a bitumen covered pewter plate. The exposure time for this epic making picture (or should that be “epoch” making?) was a record breaking eight hours! What took poor old Nicephore eight hours to produce, you can do in 1/125th of a second.

Monsieur Nicephore then teamed up with another Frenchman, Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre (1759-1851) and the pair of them worked on trying to make “photography” a little bit easier. Nicephore expired in 1833, turning up at the pearly gates with his pewter plates under his arm, but Daguerre continued in his quest of the Holy Grail, or to photograph it, if nothing else, even though he was by then 73 years old.

By 1839 when he was 80 years old, he had managed to produce images on highly polished silvered copper plates and released the details in August of that year, but only after obtaining a lifetime pension for himself from the French Government. Daguerre was no dunce! Neither was the French government, as it knew the “lifetime” would not last too long!

Now while these images were much better than Nicephore’s originals, they still took forever in the camera. Exposure times were far too long to make portraiture a reality. “Just hold zat pose for six hours, Madame!”

However, while the French were exposing themselves and their plates to the sun, an Englishman by the name of William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) was experimenting exposing silver impregnated paper and produced the first “negative”. By then exposing his sensitized paper to the negative he had made previously, he managed to produce positive copies. Now, more than one image could be made from the one photographic session. Think about it, this was ground-breaking stuff.

However, Fox Talbot did nothing about his new process until he heard from France about Louis Daguerre’s “invention”. In the same year (1839) he then rushed into print with details of his process. This was the start of modern photography.

Exposure times were still an hour or so, but in 1840 the simple photographic lens was improved by Josef Petzval allowing 16 times more light into the camera and exposure times dropped to around 4 to 5 minutes. Portraiture had arrived! The impact of Petzval on photography is often forgotten, but his improvement to the optical lens had actually much more of an effect than the slow improvements in the sensitivity of the film plates of the day.

For the next four decades photographers spent their time refining the “negative” process, however it took an American to bring photography within the reach of the masses. His name was George Eastman (1854 - 1932) and he was an inventor and an industrialist.

In 1888 he introduced the small box camera with a 100 exposure roll film inside, but he was unsure of what to call it. The marketing gurus told Eastman that a good catchy name should have K’s in it. And so “Kodak” was born.

From there it was really refinement of the silver halide processes, until the digital era came upon us, in which we stand right now. The next round of advances will certainly not take 179 years, I can assure you.


Dogs - Man’s best friend: Retrievers, flushing dogs, water dogs

Breed group 8 (part II)

Nienke Parma

Another group of gun-dogs are the flushing spaniels. As hunting dogs they were most beloved. Examples are the English and American Cocker Spaniel, the English and Welsh Springer Spaniel and the Clumber Spaniel. Their role was to search the under-growth for game birds, rabbits or hares, flush them out of their hiding places for the hunter, often a falconer, to sent his falcon to catch it. Those hunters who did not have a falcon, used nets. The Spaniel would often disappear with the game underneath the nets. When this happened the dog was supposed to wait quietly till it was freed by its hunter. With the introduction of the gun, the Spaniel was also expected to retrieve the shot birds.

It’s important to keep your Spaniel washed, clean and happy.

Spaniels are more self-willed and independent than retrievers. This can lead to irritation and disappointment, if the owner is not aware of these traits in his/her dog. Towards people, children and other dogs, the Spaniel is quite friendly. Nevertheless, the Cocker Spaniel is at the top of the list for dominance aggression towards its owners! This is mainly due to too much spoiling of the dog, lack of proper guidance and training. But also a genetic defect has caused this problem, where the dog suddenly could turn against its owner. As this kind of aggression occurred mainly in the red cocker, it is called “the red-cocker or rage-syndrome” (unfortunately this type of hereditary defect has also been detected in the Golden Retriever breed). Some Spaniels have very strong hunting instincts, making it difficult to let them run free in the field when not fully under command.

The last group of gun-dogs are the waterdogs, originally bred to help the fishermen with their nets. Many countries bred their own waterdogs such as the Spanish and Portuguese Water Dogs, Wetterhoun, Barbet, the Standard and Corded Poodles.

Beside helping with the fishing nets, they also served as messengers, swimming from boat to boat, as goat or duck-herder, for hunting, or for catching other water quarry such as the otter. Many breeds also guarded the boats or houses and property at night. All waterdogs have curly or thick waving water-resistant coats, often without an under-coat, protecting them from the elements and predators.

In general the breeds in Group 8 are cheerful and enthusiastic dogs, with an enormous stamina and working-drive that adore water. They are generally social towards humans and animals and can be quite sensitive, but can also be a bit self-willed, mainly the Spaniels and the Waterdogs. The retrievers can be quite dependent, sometimes leading to problems when staying alone.

For more information on dog-issues, boarding (now also open for cats!), training or behavior please contact Luckydogs: 0 9997 8146 or www.luckydogs.info


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

In the last column we looked at some reader’s questions and again this week, I have some more questions and answers for you.

Ginger from Mae Rim asks: I am trying to encourage a retired friend who lives near me to have fun with computers. He’s mastered playing some games but now I’d like to get him into email. His pension does not allow for a fixed monthly subscription for e-mail or for internet connections. Is there free or pay-by-time internet access?

Answer: Web-based email services such as Yahoo, Hotmail, Myownemail and many others are free. All your friend needs is internet access. Low cost pre-paid internet access is provided by most Internet Service providers locally. TOT even provides a free dial up connection but remember you will share this one with thousands of others and some days it’s next to impossible to get on line.

Sally from Thapae Gate asks: I have just loaded Outlook Express 6. Now every time I start up, the “dial up connection” screen appears and it seems to lock up everything.

Answer: It’s a fair bet you are using Windows XP. This sort of thing can be very irritating, especially when you don’t know what is making the auto-dialup do this. Usually there’s a program somewhere on your system trying to get online for some reason (possibly to check for information or updates or possibly a Trojan or Spy ware).

The simple solution is to go to Internet Explorer and turn off the Always Dial a Connection. Start Internet Explorer (the big blue E) and when it is open, select Tools > Internet Options … and look for the Connections Tab. Simply select the Never Dial a Connection. This will change the behaviour of Outlook and Outlook Express as well as Internet Explorer and before connecting you will need to manually Dial Up first.

The more complex issue is to discover what has changed your system to try to force an internet connection and this may need an experienced technician to resolve, especially if it is a Virus, Malware or even the Microsoft system itself.

Shannon near the Old City asks why Outlook Express frequently shows fewer new emails received than advised. Or, Outlook Express advises an email received but nothing new shows in the Inbox. Can this be because Spam filters from the ever growing number of blocked senders are deleting messages received?

Answer: There can be a number of reasons why new messages don’t appear and the total received don’t add up. Before you do anything else, open Outlook Express and go to the View menu > Current View and make sure “Show all messages” is selected.

You then need to check the rules you have set for blocked senders or other message rules as these can certainly divert some emails straight to the deleted items folder, while they’re still counted as downloads. An inconsistent email count can also be a tell-tale sign of a damaged mailbox file. Go to your favourite Search Engine, for example Google, and search for Tom Koch’s great site, InsideOE. He has more information on dealing with these and other common problems that you will find very helpful.

Khun Ton near Wat Umon asks about running Windows XP, Internet Explorer 6 and Outlook Express 6. “A few weeks ago I downloaded the Mozilla email program, Thunderbird. Since then any web links sent to me in an email do not work. The links are underlined as normal and the cursor changes to the hand on the link, but nothing happens when I click it. I changed back from Thunderbird to Outlook Express but the links do not work there either.

Answer: Perhaps Thunderbird didn’t register itself as the default application, yet IE has not reset itself as the default. Go to the Control Panel > Internet Options or Internet Explorer and click on Tools and then Options. Select Internet Options and choose the Programs tab. In the options for email choose the program you prefer. If you are still having problems with your “mailto” links, consider a utility called DefaultMail 2.0, which might give your default internet settings a nudge. Also check the FAQ at the Thunderbird web site.

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 Spy sweepers 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: Distressed Securities

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Background

1. What exactly is distressed securities investing?
2. What are the key risk factors and qualities required for investment success?
3. What investment performances can we anticipate?

Distressed Securities

A distressed securities fund invests in the senior debt or equity of companies which are experiencing operating difficulties and/or liquidity crises. These securities typically trade at significant discounts to par value. A typical story unfolds as follows:

1. A small, fast-growing company obtains bank loans, secured by receivables and inventory, to finance further expansion.

2. Subsequently the company obtains additional financing to acquire other companies in related fields.

3. Business conditions later contract, interest rates rise, competition increases, and the now highly-leveraged company starts to lose money.

4. As losses mount, the company cannot even pay the loan interest.

At this point, banks are faced with holding non-performing loans and sitting-out bankruptcy proceedings, or selling the now ‘distressed’ loans at a significant discount. They will usually decide to take this second option, not wanting additional risks or the headaches of unfamiliar terrain.

Now a distressed securities fund will enter the picture. Before investing, fund management will undertake a study to determine the risks and rewards. They will:

1. Analyse the fundamentals of the business.

2. Determine its operational strengths and weaknesses and potential for improvement.

3. Place valuations on the different company securities, debt and collateral and establish a likely timeframe for their realisation following and operational restructuring.

Should risk/reward parameters meet management’s objectives, the fund will purchase the senior bank debt at a large discount. Some funds then adopt a passive stance, waiting for events to unfold. Others take an active approach, participating in creditor committees and even directing future re-organisation. Finally, following successful restructuring, profits are realised.

A company’s fall into restructuring often makes the headlines, with the US government bail out of Chrysler in the 80’s unforgettable for many. A more modest example would be the US motor parts company which was in bankruptcy protection due to a combination of excessive debt and unproductive plants. Following detailed analysis, the distressed securities fund developed a recovery plan, purchased the senior debt at sixty cents on the dollar, brought in turnaround artists and hired new skilled management. The debt was converted to new equity, and the eventually productive and financially unburdened company was sold to a larger competitor netting the fund a significant profit.

Risk Factors

There are three broad risk scenarios:
1. Operating parameters and estimated realisable asset values can deteriorate.
2. Restructuring, both financial and operational, can take longer than anticipated.
3. Economic crises can temporarily reduce the values of distressed securities as investors seek ‘safer’ investments.

Success Factors

Clearly distressed securities investing demands a very high level of quality, in-house research and investment experience. Additionally, most management teams utilise outside industry and legal experts to complement their research and restructuring efforts. The best also incorporate strong risk-management controls with procedures that include:

Ï% Acquisition of senior debt of basically sound companies in financial or operational distress.
Ï% Avoidance of leverage.
Ï% Focus on readily fixable operational problems as opposed to more subjective revenue enhancements.
Ï% Maintenance of cash reserves when conditions turn negative.
Ï% Diversification of investments by company, industry and region.

Future Returns

Distressed securities investing is classified as an “event-driven” investment strategy, with returns being driven firstly by the identification of opportunity, and then successful completion of often complex restructurings. While economic crises temporarily hurt asset values, returns over full business cycles typically exceed those of equities and are accompanied by both low volatility and low market correlation.

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: Match dot comedy (Chapter One)

by Scott Jones

Match dot com is an online international site where you can find mates, dates and large, sturdy Bulgarian spinsters with names like Slobbinia. I joined after my marriage decomposed and before coming to Asia. After a decade with one woman, I am a novice at meeting prospective lovers, unlike my model/actress ex and her two hour “jogs” that took her two doors down to the neighbor’s tri-semester, home-study course in Advanced Clandestine Operations and Basic Reproductive Anatomy.

On the Internet (and) in person.

I don’t have much luck in America, perhaps since Match dot com recommends using a recent photo. I send the x-ray of my broken neck from a nearly fatal motorcycle accident. In the Member Profile Forms I choose my ideal match: “Ordinary, faithful, female”. Friend, Pen Pal, Casual Dating or Long Term Relationship: “Anyone. Now. I may be dead later on today.” Profession: “Doctor, Nurse or Blood-letter.” Perfect first date: “Elevator music and fluorescent lighting while you sip wine and I suck morphine through my arm.” A friend had suggested I find someone my own age. Age: “52 or three 17-year olds.” (Luckily I didn’t find anyone or I could have been locked forever in domestic prison, whimpering in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.)

I have good luck meeting nice, interesting women in Asia, though only nice, interesting sparks fly and quickly burn out. My first Match dot candidate is a sweet but exceptionally meek girl, a little lock washer on some expendable bolt on a small cog in the massive 24/7 engine of Hong Kong. She works 36 hours before having lunch at her desk and then puts in another 48 in the afternoon. During her weekly free time of 11 seconds, we see the sights. In classic Chinese fashion, she walks six paces behind me, probably attempting to lose me in the crowd. (I try to imagine life with her but I can’t see her.)

Hong Kong’s second Match dot contestant is a cute, perky Japanese woman whose breath you could use to strip paint. (I imagine not needing an alarm clock since her breath wakes me up in the morning. She’s lying on her side; wallpaper is peeling off the wall; the dog comes in and kicks dirt in her mouth.) The date ends soon after her overpowering Breath of Death clears the tiny four-table Starbucks coffee shop and I have two napkins stuck in my nostrils.

Match dot three involves a splendid woman in Vietnam whose web photo is deceptive. Saying goes: “Photos add 5 kilos.” Reality says: “Photo removed 15 kilos.” She is smart and warm, but I have most fun with her 11year old son whose English rivals mine. We hang out, play video games and go to the movie “The Quiet American” after which he calls me “The Noisy American.” On Chinese New Year at their home for an intimate traditional celebration of three, I bring delicious Ghirardelli chocolates from San Francisco as gifts. I graciously offer them after dinner saying, “For you…special chocolates imported from America!” Retrieving a bag of Hershey’s Kisses from the kitchen, he drops them on the table saying, “For you…special chocolates imported from America!” I love it, but his mom nearly dies on the spot. (I can only imagine video games, movies and her dying routinely.)

Next week: Thailand, where they love you before you arrive and are ready to devote their lives to you and their other boyfriends in several countries.