Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness:Seminar hears how to eat your way to health

Preeyanoot Jittawong

A seminar on eating for a healthy way of living was conducted at McCormick Hospital Chiang Mai on October 26. The speaker was Asst. Prof. Rewadee Jongsuwat, a Mahidol University lecturer, and the event was presided over by Dr Pipat Trangrattapit, director of the hospital.

Asst Prof Rewadee Jongsuwat, Mahidol University lecturer.

Asst. Prof. Rewadee said that one Thai citizen dies every nine minutes from heart attacks or heart disease, and that the numbers are escalating.

The main cause of heart disease is the consumption of the wrong kinds of food, and few people really understand what is good for their health.

There are two ways of treating heart disease. One is an operation that can add maybe 7.5 years to a patient’s life. The other is to change eating habits, which may extend life by 20 years.

She said heart attacks are caused by high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. This, however, can be controlled by consumption of the right kinds of food. We should take care of body weight, eat more vegetables and fruits, and eat fish rather than oily meat dishes. Avoid too many sweet and salty flavors, try not to drink alcohol, and exercise at least 30 minutes per day. These will all contribute towards improved health and a decrease in blood pressure, and consequently lower the risk of a heart attack.


The Doctor's Consultation:Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). What is it?

by Dr. Iain Corness

As medical technology becomes more sophisticated, newer forms of diagnostic procedures are developed. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of these and is a test that provides pictures of organs and structures inside the body, similar to X-rays and Ultrasound in some ways.

However, MRI images are produced using a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy rather than X-radiation and in some instances can also produce an image far superior, and much more safely, than the standard X-ray.

For an MRI test, the area of the body being studied is positioned inside a “coil” which produces a strong magnetic field. The MRI can detect tumors, infection, internal bleeding and other types of tissue disease or damage. It can also help diagnose conditions that affect blood flow. Tissues and organs that contain water provide the most detailed MRI pictures, while bones and other hard materials in the body do not show up well on MRI pictures (as opposed to X-rays). Being computer controlled, the images are captured digitally and are in a form to be saved to computer and can be transmitted to other computers, as well as producing “hard copy” films for viewing on the light box.

In some cases a contrast material may be injected during the MRI scan to enhance the images of certain structures. The contrast material may help evaluate blood flow, detect some types of tumors, and locate areas of inflammation. This contrast medium is different from the ones used in CT scans and other X-rays, and not as likely to produce a reaction in some patients.

The actual procedure to get the MRI images is also quite different from the usual X-ray or CT scan. Since the procedure relies on magnetism, any metal in the patient’s body would mean that the person is not suitable for MRI studies. This includes pacemakers, artificial limbs, any metal pins or metal fragments in your body (especially in the eyes), metal heart valves, metal clips in the brain, metal implants in the ear, or any other implanted or prosthetic medical device (such as a drug infusion pump). Even the metallic intrauterine devices (IUD) may prevent you from having the MRI test done. The magnetic field is so powerful that it will pull metal objects across the room, stop watches and obliterate encrypted details on credit cards!

Since the area of the body to be examined has to be placed within the magnetic field, you are placed on your back on a moving table that is part of the MRI scanner. Your head, chest, and arms may be held with straps to help you remain still. The table will then slide into the narrow tunnel that contains the electro-magnet. Depending on the part of your body to be examined, your head, limbs (such as your legs), or your entire body will be moved into the center of the magnet. Having had an MRI, I can tell you that the tunnel is very narrow, and your nose and elbows touch the inside of the walls, so if you tend towards claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), this procedure certainly produces anxiety. Add in the fact that when the actual image is being produced, the tube thumps and bangs and whizzes, while the technician is telling you to hold your breath! By the way, the procedure also takes somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes in general, so you do need to lie and relax, close your eyes and pretend you are lying on a beach somewhere! If you do suffer from anxiety over such procedures, then you can be given a relaxant before the MRI is done.

Finally, the MRI machines are exceptionally expensive, so the MRI scans are proportionally costly as well, but they can provide some life-saving information.


Agony Column

My dearest Hillary, whom I love,

You are so sexy, because you sound like a real man. I also am a real man who seeks true happiness with a woman much like a real man. Tell me, oh fail (sic) Hillary, do you at least have stubble? Hillary, you are just about the dumbest person I have ever known – and trust me, I’ve known a lot of hookers living here. So many people write to you in search of real advice, and all you offer them is sarcastic remarks along with a kick-in-the-ass. Who do you think you are? You pretend to have this column to offer advice, but all you offer is complete humiliation.
Surely, you will not publish a letter like this as your column is fake. When and if people actually do write to you, you choose to only publish those that seem as though they would entertain the readers of the Mail and that you could give one of your ‘oh so funny’ answers to. Time is short and I must run, my love. No chocolates, champagne or flowers for you.

Tequila Tom
Dear Tequila Tom,
Sorry to disappoint you, my vitriolic Petal, but my column must be real as I have published your diatribe (sorry, email) in its entirety, complete with typos. I am so glad, and the readers too, I would imagine, that you have known a lot of hookers living here. It is such a difficult task after all, but if that is how you measure your success in the ‘real man’ stakes, then so be it. Please keep your chocolates, champagne and flowers for those who are almost as dumb as me. It may brighten up their day.

Dear Hillary,
I rented a small apartment, from a Thai lady I met socially, for six months last summer. She asked me for a deposit equal to two month’s rent, which I paid, because she said I would get it back at the end of the contract. When it was time for me to go back to the UK she would not give me the deposit because she said she was waiting for the bill for the electricity and water and telephone. I wrote to her from the UK but she never replied. When I came this time I went looking for her, but nobody seems to know where she has gone. This has really annoyed me and I was wondering how I can stop this happening again? Have you any suggestions, Hillary?

Roger
Dear Roger,
Unfortunately my Petal, you went into the rental contract with your eyes shut and your brain in neutral. This is not the UK. There are no agencies over here to help unthinking people get their unwisely spent money back. Just learn from the experience and next time rent through a reputable real estate office, which will hold the deposit in trust and credit your account after all the bills are paid. As for last year, put it down to experience. Two months rental is probably a small price to pay for it.

Dear Hillary,
Our driver had an accident with our car, which he took without our permission one night, and was taken into custody by the police. Apparently he has to stay in jail until there is settlement and agreement between our insurance company and the motorcycle he crashed into. Is this the usual in these instances or should we have intervened?

Perplexed
Dear Perplexed,
Firstly, never intervene, no matter how well intentioned that intervention might be. Thai law grinds along in its own sweet way, without any need for help from others. Just take the advice of a good and trusted Thai lawyer. Your husband’s work will be able to supply you some names. Unfortunately, you will be without the car for some time, but that’s just tough luck, I’m afraid. Next time make sure your driver can’t get the keys.

Dear Hillary,

I am not Thai, but like many Thai people, I am a hopeless timekeeper. My husband gets very annoyed if he has to wait for me and is threatening that next time he will just drive off and leave me at home. Do you think he means it, or is he calling my bluff? Or should I try to work out how to be on time? Everyone else in Thailand seems to run late, so why shouldn’t I? Why can’t he just take things as they come like everyone else I know?

Tina
Dear Tina,
One minute you sound as if you want to be punctual, but in the next breath you want your husband to change. You are going to have to make up your mind girl before you’ll ever be on time, and before the time is ‘too late’. Who’s got the problem? Clock-watching Clarence or Timeless Tina? I believe that it is you, Petal. However, it is easy to be on time. You already know how long it takes you to get ready, so start getting ready, no matter what the excuse, that much time before you are due to leave. Anyone who is consistently late is either totally disorganized or doing it deliberately as an attention seeking device. Next time set your alarm clock and drop everything when it rings.


Camera Class: Photographing your house – before it falls over!

by Harry Flashman

Did you know that after people, one of the most common objects photographed is houses? There are plenty of good reasons for this. A house is the most expensive item you will ever buy, so that makes it rather special. Unless of course you are in the habit of buying new Ferraris.

We do not stop at just our own houses either. Noteworthy houses or even stately homes seen on vacation get our cameras pointed at them. In the UK it is Big Ben, or the White House when visiting the USA. Unfortunately, the photo you get back is many times not representative of the way you saw the house in real life.

The commonest problem is the ‘House Falling Over Backwards’ followed by the ‘House Falling Over Sideways’. One is easy to fix, the other not.

To get a whole house into the viewfinder, the usual way is to use a wide angle lens, or the zoom at its widest setting. This is where we come unstuck. The wide angle setting exaggerates the perspective of the house and it is that which makes it look as if it is falling over backwards.

To counteract this is not easy. The first thing to do is to try to elevate the position from where you are taking the shot. The higher up you get, the less the perspective effect shows. If you have to take a 20 storey skyscraper, go across the street and climb to the 10th floor of the building opposite and shoot from there. The half way point will cancel out the extreme perspective problems.

If you cannot get an elevated viewpoint, then try to use the standard or even a telephoto lens and move backwards to get the entire house back inside the viewfinder frame. These lenses do not exaggerate perspective like the wide angles, but getting far enough away can be a problem.

Now the falling sideways look. This is simply bad framing by the photographer. It is very important to make sure the sides of the house are parallel with the sides of the viewfinder before you pop the shutter. Most people remember to get the horizon parallel with the bottom or the top of the finder when taking landscapes, but forget to look at the sides when shooting houses. Failure to check this results in a snapshot where the house looks like it is the victim of acute subsidence. Not a good look! Especially if you are trying to impress your friends and family back in Boston with the house you are renting or buying in Thailand!

The other problem comes when you want to photograph the interior. Interiors are not easy, and even the pros will shudder when asked to do some interior shots. The biggest problem is lighting. If the curtains are not drawn over the windows, there is a source of extreme brightness in the picture as well as dark areas in the corners. This will confuse the electronic exposure meter in the camera and you will either get a “normal” window with very dark foreground, or a completely white “blown out” window with “fogging” of the picture.

One way to get over this is to draw some light drapes across the windows to cut down the brightness. White voile curtains are the best for this. They work as light “diffusers” and decrease the otherwise impossible contrast in the scene.

The other way is to set the camera’s exposure readings for the view from the window, then fill in the front of the room with electronic flash. This is called “balancing” the flash output, and if you bounce the flash off the ceiling you will get a very natural, bright and airy look to the interior shots. But it is not simple. Take a few different exposures as a precaution.

Of course, you again have to be aware of the exaggerated perspective and make sure the camera is held straight, and shoot from around half way between floor and ceiling. Just really concentrate on getting the edges to line up with walls and window frames and you will get a very pleasing result.


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

This week I have some more questions and answers for you. But first, how secure are our computers? We are bombarded with warnings about new Viruses, Worms, and Trojan Horses. The good news is there have been less serious Virus attacks in the last few months, but the bad news is the increasing danger from Worms, Spyware and Trojan Horses. Having a good Anti-Virus is no longer enough and you do need to consider protection against each threat.

Various new ways of invading our privacy or ripping us off are constantly springing up. Spyware and adware are being planted on us, crackers are breaking into our machines, email is full of spam and phishing scams. Short of never going on-line, what can the average PC user do? While the threats are serious, the situation is by no means hopeless. If you’re curious, or just want to find out what you can do to protect yourself, go to http://surfthenetsafely.com/

This site is dedicated to helping the average PC user make full and safe use of the Internet. It is a collection of pages outlining defences against the various threats and annoyances and the steps that can be taken to ensure that we continue to enjoy the Internet.

Patricia from Chiang Mai says: I am using the AutoFill option on Google and when entering a field the system lets me choose from a drop-down list of previously matching entries. Over time, this list has become bigger and bigger and has some mistyped entries. Do you know how to remove the stored entries and start again?

Answer: To delete individual entries just highlight the incorrect entry and press the Delete key. But if you want to clear all information from the various forms you have used, open IE and then from Tools, Internet Options click on the Content tab then on AutoComplete and then finally click Clear Forms.

To completely clear your AutoComplete history for web addresses, from the Tools menu, click Internet Options, General tab and click Clear History, and then click OK. I suggest setting your History to Cache no more than 3 days as this is what instructs IE to store web pages you have viewed and as the list gets longer and longer, IE has to check each entry to confirm that a site you are viewing is already stored and uses that instead of refreshing the latest version of the site, and of-course takes longer and longer to load a site for you.

Khun Steve from Phrayoe asks: When I scan a 4-inch x 6-inch picture at 75 dpi with my Canon scanner, it consistently appears in several different applications as 8.26-inch x 11.68-inch. Can you explain why this happens? Also, when I load a picture of, say, 325 KB, into various graphic applications, the picture “details” in these applications show the picture as occupying “memory” of about 5.625 MB. Can you explain this?

Answer: I cannot explain why your scanned picture is reported to be larger. Over time, I have tested a couple of scanners, including a Canon, and a postcard size remains a postcard size regardless of the resolution at which is was scanned. Although 75 dpi is a common setting for scanning for the web, if you would like to have a full-screen image of your 4-inch x 6-inch image, then you should use a higher resolution as most screens are set to 800 x 600 pixels or higher.

Your second question is easier to answer. Depending on the format used, the image size on disk is substantially reduced by using different compression methods. These can be lossless, or lossy as used by JPG compression. However, when saving to a lossy type file, although some detail may not be seen when viewing the image, the file size is greatly reduced.

When an image is loaded into memory, it must be uncompressed to be viewed. The difference between image size and memory required depends on the format. In saving a scanned postcard at 360 dpi as a JPEG, the memory required to view the JPEG file is 7.4 MB. Saved as a JPEG with moderate compression, the file size can be reduced to 400 KB, but as a TIF the same image takes 4.6 MB of disk space. However, as a BMP file it requires 7.7 MB, which is why nobody now saves images as BMP. The same image scanned at 72 dpi needs only 365 KB of memory to be displayed and, as a JPG file, it takes only 30 KB of disk space.

Good quality images for printing magazines will usually be saved as TIFF files, where as JPEG is fine for web sites.

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: A brief(ish) history of Stocks (Part one)

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Like all expats returning from the homeland a few pounds heavier, a couple of weeks ago we made our new start. Our resolution wasn’t just a determination to lose a few inches rather than have to have our suits let out again by Bobby at Raja’s. In addition, following a request from one of our long time readers as to what we would do with investment capital right now (as opposed to what we’d avoid even with somebody else’s bargepole, which is more fun to write about but seemingly less fun to read about), we undertook to give our own eccentric (for want of a less kind description) take on the various asset classes and what to do about them from a positive stance. We’ve already covered the world of private equity investment, with a promise that, after a decent interlude to allow more market bitching, we’d be back to pick up the rest of the equity market pieces.

Well that interlude is seemingly over, so time to get our teeth into equities. Let’s start with a brief history of equities. It’s generally accepted that the Dutch East India Company or Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (happily this was usually abbreviated to VOC) was the precursor of the modern public company. It was a co-operative arrangement founded in Amsterdam in 1602 to undertake maritime trade expeditions, mainly to the relatively newly discovered (as far as much of Europe was concerned) Spice Islands for the benefit of its common stock holders - it was not actually the first company to issue shares. (That distinction probably belongs to Stora Kopparberg in the 13th century. Granted a charter from King Magnus II of Sweden in 1347 this originally private company flourished, changed its name to Stora, merged with Finnish forestry products company Enso in 1998, acquired U.S. company Consolidated Papers Inc. in 2000 and currently has some 45,000 employees, is the fifth largest pulp and paper manufacturer and can be looked up under ticker symbol SEO on the New York Stock Exchange).

Getting back to 16th century maritime mercantilism: In the century following the opening of the sea routes to the Indies (not just India but also all of south-east Asia) by Vasco da Gama in 1499, over 200 voyages were made around the Cape of Good Hope to the east. The chief motivation was initially the spice trade, but around 1600 other trading commodities were discovered in the Orient and, ultimately, these took a more prominent place than the spice trade (in 16th Century Europe, pepper alone enjoyed a status roughly equivalent to a combination of chocolate, royal jelly, alcohol, vitamin tablets and crack cocaine today - and was priced accordingly).

Only around half of all the (mainly Portuguese ships) that went off to the Indies ever came back. In 1580 the two great Iberian sea-faring nations, Spain and Portugal, united. The pre-eminence of the allies effectively closed the sea route to Asia to other European nations.

Towards the end of the 16th century, Dutch traders from various towns decided to contest the rights for the import of spices from Asia. In order to finance the ships and equipment, private companies were formed such as the Brabantse Compagnie, the Rotterdamse Compagnie, the Compagnie van Verre, which in turn merged with the Second Compagnie in Amsterdam and was called the Old (Oude) Compagnie. Within a few years these companies equipped 15 fleets of 65 ships (of which over 50 were to actually return fully laden with goods). They fought the Portuguese, the English and each other. The result was a dramatic fall in the price of spices. With largely economic motives the Dutch merchants decided to co-operate.

On 20 March 1602 the prime companies of Holland merged to form the VOC on the suggestion of the “landsadvocat” of the province of Holland, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and the General Governor Prinz Johann Moritz von Nassau. At the beginning the company was run by six kamera (chambers) in the major trading centres: Amsterdam, Seeland, Delft, Rotterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen. Each chamber appointed its own directors to the 75 strong board of directors. From these the actual executive board of 17 members was elected. The original paid up share capital was 6,424,588 guilders, a huge sum at that time.

The key to success in the raising of capital was the decision taken by the owners to open up access to a wide public and to accept shareholders as part-owners. Thus the shares were sold rapidly, mostly at a nominal value of 3000 guilders, and they were tradable (i.e. any Dutchman could buy and sell them). This last feature was the real innovation.

Continued 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: I’ve had enough

by Scott Jones

Scott Jones

It’s 31 October and the rainy season had better be over before my friend’s outdoor wedding this week. Two Halloween trick-or-treaters stopped by dressed as mould spores. Upon closer inspection, I realized they indeed were mould spores.

I do love this season because everything outside gets so green and lush, but I’m not fond of the same qualities on the inside. When I returned to my dark, presumably uninhabited bungalow after 6 weeks in America, it was a thriving Petri dish, usurped by a gazillion malodorous microbes. The living room ceiling was definitely alive, fuzzy and growing. My leather boots were thick and emerald and scampered back into the closet. The billion spores I breathed have now settled in comfortably and are reproducing between the vertebrae of my lower back. The official tourist info says the rainy season ends in October which has an average of 143 mm of rainfall, but I’m sure that much fell last night alone.

During a cloudburst with the force of a fire hose, I ventured out one night to get someone at the airport, a three hour trip instead of the standard 20 minutes. The moat had overflowed so I searched for another route which left me lost in the black deluge. A Thai guy came over to the car, completely soaked, now taking a cool shower in public with his clothes on, and casually gave me explicit directions. The road into the airport was passable but on the way out, waves washed over my hood, fan belts screeched and I prayed to Buddha to keep my tires on the pavement.

SOS DD: Same old storm, different day.

Here it rains, people get drenched, no problem, they walk in the rain, ride in the rain, whatever. In America you run from the rain. Huddled next to a bank in a downpour, I waited for my aunt to arrive. Her blue Buick pulled up, I raced to the car, threw open the door and catapulted into the front seat. I turned to thank her but confronted a strange, middle-aged, wide-eyed woman. With unison looks of horror on our faces, I clambered out of the wrong blue Buick.

At least in Thailand the rainy season is warm with intermittent storms that eventually subside. In Portland, Oregon, USA, it’s cold and endless. People don’t tan, they rust. The state animal is the banana slug. Daylight savings time means an extra hour of rain. I asked some guy if it ever stopped raining in Portland. He said, “How should I know? I’ve only lived here for seven years.”

It’s a danger zone now in Minnesota. Ten years ago the rain turned to snow two days before today. By Halloween a meter fell forming drifts two and three meters deep. A week later another half meter fell. Then it rained before dropping to 20 below zero. You couldn’t walk normally for months. We were like crippled people shuffling precariously along arctic ridges. If you tripped, you could be frozen to the ground, buried and not be discovered until spring.

Three people have actually said to me, “Rainy season’s done. It’s just a passing storm.” (Hello? Sawatdee? That’s what the rainy season is, duh!) These are the people that say, “Traffic’s gone. I’m crossing the street. Just a few big trucks coming.”

With 360 Buddhist temples and a host of other religions in Chiang Mai, there must be someone with a direct connection to God to help clear the sky. I asked a priest if he could stop the rain before a wedding in America. He said, “Sorry, I’m just in sales, not management.”