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Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation 

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: AIDS competence needed says Health and Development Forum

Owen Elias

“Connecting local responses around the world - there is another way to address HIV.” This is the tagline of the Constellation for AIDS Competence, a non-profit organization registered in Belgium (www. aidscompetence.org) with a newly established secretariat in Chiang Mai. The “other way” is based on the belief that the necessary knowledge, skills and experiences to successfully fight the epidemic already exist somewhere within our network of contacts.

Participants representing NGOs working with HIV/AIDS included the Asian Harm Reduction Network (AHRN), AIDSNet, Empower, TYAP Foundation, Community and HIV MAP Foundation, Baan Ruam Jay and Health and Development Networks (HDN).

Last month’s NGO Forum discussed the current US administration’s funding policy for international HIV/AIDS programs, claiming it discriminatory and divisive, as it favors organizations prescribing to its agenda. In this increasingly competitive “fight for funding”, Jean-Louis Lamboray, Chairman of the Constellation, claimed that the usual message “more people are getting infected; we need more money” diverts the attention from a more fundamental understanding. The key is to turn our attention inwards, to examine ourselves and our work, to identify both our strengths and weaknesses - and to then share the strengths with others.

According to Mr Lamboray, the first step is to create awareness by trying to honestly answer the question “Where am I, where are we right now in terms of our own AIDS competence?”

Once this awareness has been established, new goals can be identified, and those areas selected where we as individuals, organizations or companies, cities and even whole communities feel the need to learn more.

The participants applied one of several tools developed by the Constellation as a facilitation process. This involves a self-assessment framework that allows groups to examine their current state of AIDS competence in each of ten areas that include “Adapting our response”, “Identify and address vulnerability” and “Linking care with prevention”.

The assumption throughout is that people develop expertise in different capacities at different speeds, tending to hone skills in one or two main areas, while giving less focus to others. To “spread” the existing expertise more widely, the Constellation uses the Human Capacity Development (HCD) approach, which “…can change the way people think, work and behave on a very large scale, and local learning experiences are essential to enable this to happen.”

So what is needed to achieve real and lasting progress in fighting HIV/AIDS? The Constellation’s innovative response is “Progress happens when people own the issue of HIV/AIDS. Once they face up to the reality of AIDS, people take charge, they care, they change, they share their hopes and experience with others.” It is done by recognizing and building on their AIDS competence.

The NGO Forum takes place on the last Tuesday of every month. For more information please contact Owen Elias at Health and Development Networks, 053 418 438 or ngoforum @hdnet.org


The Doctor's Consultation: Is cloning the way forward?

by Dr. Iain Corness

There is a movie coming called The Island. This portrays a future direction for mankind, though a rather well-heeled mankind, I have to say. The plot is, that for five million dollars, you can have a clone made of yourself, which is kept safely away from prying eyes or accident, ready to be used when you need the odd organ or three, either through disaster or disease. And while you are lying on the operating table, the new kidney/liver/heart is winging its way to you by helicopter. Great for you, though not quite so great for your clone!

Now that’s the Sci-Fi movie, but has it a chance of being our real future? After all, many concepts that were wild dreams years ago, are reality today. Remember Dick Tracey’s two way wrist radio? The fore-runner to today’s mobile phone. You can add in much more from the annals of science fiction, including space travel, with people floating around in a space station as I type this. So will we all have our own spare parts clone, an (un)willing donor to keep us going? I believe the answer is no.

There are many reasons for my negative feelings, even leaving aside the very vexed question of the ethics of cloning human beings, especially as mobile organ replacements. The first item to consider is whether cloning does indeed produce a “new” you? The simple answer is that it does not. It produces an “old” you. The cells that are taken to produce the clone are already running down their internal time clock. It seems that the “new” cells are already the same distance down the time line as the donor. Simplistic, I know, but it does go some way towards understanding the problems associated with cloning.

One prediction that is true from the movie, is the cost. Cloning is expensive. One reason is high-tech and another is the failure rate. The famous first sheep clone called Dolly was the only success in 276 attempts! Figures indicate that more than 90 percent of cloning attempts fail to produce a viable result, and it takes more than 100 nuclear transfer procedures to produce one viable clone.

Even if the animal survives initially, cloned animals tend to have more compromised immune function and higher rates of infection, tumor growth, and other disorders (Dolly was young when she died of cancer). Japanese studies have shown that cloned mice die early. About a third of the cloned calves born alive die young. Just looking healthy is not a good indicator of long term survival. For example, Australia’s first cloned sheep appeared healthy and energetic on the day she died, and the results from her autopsy failed to determine a cause of death.

Not only do most attempts to clone mammals fail, about 30 percent of clones born alive are affected with “large offspring syndrome”. The same problems would be expected in human cloning. Additionally, what about mental development? These are not important factors in cloning sheep, not the brightest animals in the farmyard, but an important factor in the development of humans.

A more possible way forward could be cloned organs. This requires harvesting stem cells, and producing organs from them. In 2002, scientists with the biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology reported that they had successfully transplanted kidney-like organs into cows. The researchers created a cloned cow embryo then harvested fetal tissue from the clones and transplanted it into the donor cow. In the three months of observation following the transplant, no sign of immune rejection was observed in the transplant recipient.

Another potential application of cloning is the creation of genetically modified pigs from which organs suitable for human transplants could be harvested (xenotransplantation). Tomorrow’s breakfast order could be bacon and eggs and a little kidney! But that is the stuff of Science Fiction, isn’t it?


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I have provided for my wife for the past six years of our marriage. I have provided for her family as well, building a small house on the farm. She has never had to want for anything. I am a model husband, good looking, never play up, only drink in moderation, in perfect health, a witty intelligent companion, and considered by everyone as a “good catch”. This week she calmly announced that she wants a divorce. I can’t get it out of her as to why - just that she wants a divorce. Why, Hillary, why? I have given her no cause for this. I am really astounded by her actions. Do you have any ideas?
Astounded

Dear Astounded,
Yes, I have lots of ideas. Firstly, it’s probably because she has found out after six years that she is married to a smug self satisfied, arrogant, pompous twit. I think I’d divorce you too, but it wouldn’t have taken me six years.
Dear Hillary,
This isn’t really a heart problem, but is one that worries me every day. We are often in Thailand and the one thing that completely confuses me is the subject of tipping - when and how much? If the establishment charges a “service fee”, should you tip as well? What do you do as someone living there, for example? I believe that the wages are not high for some of the people in bars and restaurants and they need the tips, but I do not want to throw money away either? What’s your tip about tipping?
Penny

Dear Penny,
There are many factors to take into consideration here. Firstly, Service Charge or no Service Charge. If the establishment adds on 10 percent (the usual amount), then as far as Hillary is concerned - that’s the tip. There are some places that no doubt pocket the Service Charge, but that’s not anything of your doing, nor can you change it. That is something between the employees and the owners to work out. However, if Hillary feels that the waiter or service provider has gone well beyond that which could be expected, then I reward with a little extra something for that person, irrespective. You know the sort of things I like - a little fawning, groveling, heavy handed refilling of the wine glasses, complimentary chocolates at the end of the meal and lots of compliments.
In an establishment that has no standard add on Service Charge, then it really is up to you. Small change left over or up to 10 percent is quite normal. The Thai people are grateful for anything you leave them. It all adds up by the end of the day.
By the way, if you leave the change (tip) on the plate, this means the tip should go into the tip box and shared amongst all personnel. If you place the tip in the service person’s hand, then the tip is all theirs. This is particularly so in the bars, so remember.
Dear Hillary,
Where would you suggest I take my girlfriend for a quiet romantic evening? I intend to propose to her then, so want the surroundings to make it an evening to remember. Have you any suggestions?
Soon to be Married

Dear Soon to be Married,
You didn’t say in your email just what it was that you wanted to propose to the young lady. Marriage, m้nage a trois or a dirty weekend in Chiang Rai? If you are so indecisive and wishy washy as this all the time, I hope she says No! to all three of your proposals. Really, my palpitating Petal, you should know your girlfriend’s taste more than I do (I’ve never met her I am sure, and as far tasting...)? Take her to someplace where she is happy and enjoys the surroundings and go from there. Best of luck!
Dear Hillary,
You are forever telling people that they live in Thailand and should learn Thai if they are living here for some time. I have retired here, but at my age (62), I find it very difficult to learn a new language. Is there any quick way of doing this, or do you have any special tips for people trying to learn this Thai language? I can assure you this question is genuine and a genuine answer is appreciated.
Jim

Dear Jim,
Yes, Petal, I do have to remind many expats that this is not their country, so why should the locals have to learn your language? I also realize that for many expats, Thai is a difficult language to learn, as it is not derived from Latin roots like so many European languages. Try and find a good language school in your area (ask around fellow expats), and then go and learn written as well as spoken Thai. I know that many of you will say, “We just want to be able to speak it,” but by learning the script, it gives you a greater understanding of the sounds, which is the all important factor with the Thai language. And it certainly makes it easier when traveling up-country, to know which direction you are headed! It is worth the effort, Petal. Try for six months at an hour a day. And do the homework!


Camera Class: Polar bears and black cats

by Harry Flashman

Have you ever tried to photograph a polar bear? Or a black cat? Or even a white car, or a plain black one? If you use an automatic camera set on A (for “amnesia”) then the chances are very high that you ended up with a grey polar bear and a grey cat. Very highly likely. The reason for this is the magic photographic number known as 18 percent grey!

All photographers should become acquainted with the colour known as 18 percent grey. Why? Because after you understand 18 percent grey, you have complete control over blacks and whites in your photographs - and by that, I mean in colour photography, not just the B&W kind.

The really dedicated photo buffs will recognize 18 percent grey as being the cornerstone of the “Zone System” and Ansel Adams superb prints are trotted out with sage mutterings that if you understood the zone system, then your photos would look like his too. This is, of course, frog spawn. Ansel Adams spent many hours painstakingly printing his B&W work, specifically burning in some areas, holding back others and if you think he didn’t then think again.

However, here is the “short course” on the Zone System. What you have to remember at all times is just the simple fact that the meter in your camera knows intimately what is 18 percent grey, and is programmed to produce as much 18 percent grey as possible. In other words, point the camera at your subject and the meter will work out a combination of shutter speed and aperture to give an exposure to get the whole shot as close to 18 percent grey as possible. This is irrespective of whatever name the camera manufacturer gives to the metering system and how many points it meters from. The common denominator is 18 percent grey.

Now this works for the majority of shots - 18 percent grey is close enough, and the processor at your friendly photoshop can adjust the rest from there - but it is always a compromise. You do not even realise what a compromise it really is until you take a photograph of that aforementioned white car or a black cat, and see that it has been printed grey.

This is one reason why I keep on saying that if you run the camera in the fully A for automatic mode, you will only get A for “average” pictures. What you have to do to get whites or blacks is to run the camera in the metered manual mode instead. Remember that when you are photographing the white car the exposure indicated by the camera is the one that will make the white colour 18 percent grey. To get the colour back to white it will need more light on the film.

Here’s what you do. Let us imagine that your camera tells you that the exposure should be f16 @ 1/60th of a second. You need more light to fall on the emulsion, so make your exposure f 11 @ 1/60th and another at f8 @ 1/60th. That gives you both one and two full stops of light more. One of those two will give you a white car, irrespective of such fancy terms as automated multi-phasic metering, centre weighted metering or whatever.

Now when photographing a black object, the camera meter will indicate a shutter speed and an aperture to give you another 18 percent grey object. There is too much light falling on the film emulsion this time. What you have to do is cut down on the amount of light getting into the camera. Again imagine that the indicated exposure is f16 @ 1/60th. You want to darken things, so take two shots with one at f16 @ 1/125th and another at f16 @ 1/250th. Again this is one and two stops decrease in light levels. One of these will give you a black cat!

Put the camera in metered manual mode and then if you are photographing something white, give it one and two stops more light than indicated. Conversely, if photographing something black, set the camera for one and two stops less light than indicated. It works! Try it this weekend.


Money Matters: A short history of nearly every fiat currency

Part 1

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Today the so-called “dollar” is deemed by US government fiat to be legal tender in payment for all debts. In other words, the government is saying: “Here, we deem this stuff we print to be money, and it shall be used in payment of all debts.” The meaning of this outrage has been lost through the passage of time through laziness and ignorance. Let us see what the currency markets have to say before I share with you a brief history of how we got to fiat money in the US:

We identify two main drivers for the USD rally through 2005, and in both cases think the effects look rather stretched already. This is NOT to say that this trend won’t continue, but the same old fundamental arguments are reaching maturation:

1) Firstly, the sell off in EUR/USD after the rejection of the EU constitution in France (55%) and Netherlands (62%) is over done. Despite the hysteria about the imminent break-up of the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the demise of the euro, this is only slightly more probable than Texas seceding from the rest of the U.S., given the absence of readily available exits for member states. EU officials failed to quell investors’ concerns by refusing to quash rumours that the Bundesbank and the German Finance Ministry had discussed the possible break-up of the EMU back in mid May. But with the European constitution in its current form now effectively dead and the contentious issue of the EU budget likely to go on the back burner for at least the next six months, the worst of the political “crisis” in the Eurozone is now behind us.

2) Secondly, the U.S. economy’s ability to deliver consistent positive economic surprises relative to the rest of the world is a transitory phenomenon. To measure economic news flow in a more objective manner, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Capital Markets has constructed Economic Surprise Indices for the main countries and regions. The indices are based on rolling one-month “windows” of the main activity releases’ outcomes relative to consensus, expressed as diffusion indices. The graph here shows the Eurozone index minus that for the USD against the three-month change in EUR/USD.

From a fundamental viewpoint, the three significant USD bounces in the current bear market have all been associated with the U.S. delivering strongly positive economic surprises relative to the Eurozone. But economic surprises are by their nature transitory - expectations will inevitably catch up with the positive news flow, as was the case in the last two USD bounces. And as this happens, the structural factors that have been driving the USD lower for the last three years come back into play and, in our view, the trend decline resumes.

From a fundamental viewpoint, the three significant USD bounces in the current bear market have all been associated with the US Dollar Index being oversold (as measured by the RSI at the top of the graph).

Intermarket analysis is often a powerful tool utilized by technicians in order to identify key inflection points in various markets and asset classes. The main premise of intermarket analysis is that markets rarely move in isolation to one another.

Therefore, it is often helpful to identify market linkages in order to follow trading themes as they develop and evolve over time. Since the U.S. dollar reached a cyclical peak in 2001, one intermarket theme that has been prevalent has been the negative correlation between the U.S. dollar and the price of gold. This relationship is presented on your left, where the U.S. dollar, as represented by the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY), has been within a long-term downtrend while gold prices have been trending higher. Note that the DXY reached a cyclical low at 80.39 in December 2004 - just as gold prices peaked at 458.70. However, this key intermarket linkage has broken down sharply in recent weeks, as the DXY has risen in tandem with gold prices. Notably, voter rejection of the European constitution in France and the Netherlands in late May has served as the catalyst for this development. The breakdown in this relationship has important implications for the U.S. dollar, which we examine next week.

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: Me, Myself and I

by Scott Jones

The most beautiful women in Thailand are men. Or half men. A blend of both? Whatever. Who knows? If I’ve ever been with a man, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. I do respect their commitment to change. Some people can’t even change their daily breakfast menu, let alone swap body parts. Maybe some people just can’t find dates, so they make themselves into one, but that moment of dismemberment is beyond me. “Yes, Doctor. I’d like to trade in my little brother for a cave. Let me know if you find a home for him. Maybe I’ll visit sometime and he can go spelunking.”

Mango Joe with invisible friends on conference call with himself.

Many people have reinvented themselves in Thailand. (Oh, yeah. I did that, too.) You’re in a new country with exotic customs, places, people and unlimited options. You can ditch your old bad habits or get new bad ones. But after a while, you realize the old you is still there, alive and unaltered, trying to assemble your own personal jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box.

Mango Joe is a born-again Thai, but there’s a crowd of other Joes milling about in his brain. Originally from Louisiana, where they say “y’all” when talking to only one person, denoting a true comprehension of multi-personalities, Mango lapses into the homeboy drawl when talking about gumbo, jambalaya and grits (Grilled Roaches In Thick Syrup or Going Right Into The Sewer). While teaching he speaks clear English or at least decent American. On the golf course, though he doesn’t know the language, he suddenly becomes a very vocal Japanese man with a Samurai sword that looks a lot like a golf club. Always singing while swinging, he’s Mr. Human Radio 24/7 with 10,000 tunes loaded into his mental RAM. When two of us play golf, we’re at least a five some. But hey, he’s happy, without deconstructive surgery. He’s got several people to hang with even when he’s alone. “I used to hear strange voices in my head, but we’re okay now.”

For Joe and other folks with a few folks inside, here’s a little tune to sing with your internal choir:

I may be schizophrenic
But I’ll always have each other.
Today, a lady, tomorrow, just a guy.
We’re never lonely, living alone,
Me, myself and I.
The doctor told me, “You’re going crazy.
Too many people live in your head.”
He wants to kill my friends!
If you go see a shrink,
You should have your head examined.
We had a costume party and asked everybody.
30 invitations, I hand-delivered to me.
“Come as your fantasy!”
I had sex with myself,
An orgy with several of me.
I’m mad at me. I hate myself.
I swore at them and said,
“Why don’t you go screw yourself?”
And slammed the door in my face!
I beat myself up and locked me out for 3 days.
Though I’m a woman, I’m still a man.
The operation didn’t change the size of my hands
My voice is low as my dad’s!
But I’ve got all the glands
To love a woman or man.
I may be schizophrenic
But I’ll always have each other.
Today, a lady, tomorrow, just a guy.
We’re never lonely, living alone,
Me, myself and I.