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: Handicapped Children’s national day celebrations

Annelie Hendriks

The ‘wheelchair children’ proudly represented their school in the parade.

2000 handicapped children gathered at the School for the Development of the Child in Mae Rim for a day out during the National Day for the Handicapped December 23. They represented many special schools and institutes in the North of Thailand.

Listen to us and our needs!

The schools for Blind Children, Deaf Children, Physically Handicapped Children, and Autistic Children took all part in a beautiful parade and held proud the banner of their school or institute. They played music, there were performances, and meanwhile the teachers and representatives of the students asked for awareness for the situation of handicapped children in Thailand, such as the difficulties children in wheelchairs encounter everyday because most buildings have no easy access for wheelchairs.

It was a cold and foggy morning but all the children wore colorful clothes and the place was decorated with color full banners, flags and balloons. Teachers in thick winter clothes were busy setting the many tables for the lunch.

Mother and daughter.

Meanwhile the children listened to speeches and to music performances by
their peers. Next year there should be more publicity for this event so that the people of Chiang Mai can come to visit and learn more about the often difficult situation of the handicapped children in the North of Thailand.

Raising awareness.


The Doctor's Consultation: Happy, healthy 2006 is within reach

This week’s column is practically a rewrite of last year’s column at this time. This is that time of year when we make all those resolutions that we have absolutely no intention of keeping, but it all sounded good at New Year parties! Well, that’s the truth, isn’t it?

However there are a few resolutions that if you follow or abide by them you will get even more New Years to celebrate. Interested? You should be – I am offering you up to 10 more years, but like all great offers, there are some conditions that apply!

The first resolution, for all cigarette smokers out there, is to give up the weed in 2006. It is no use trying to deny it. We have shown, more than adequately, that cigarettes are the greatest killers of mankind, even including Osama bin Laden. All smokers are on borrowed time. End of story. And I don’t care if your grandfather smoked 60 a day and lived to be 123. The big numbers that have been examined in studies all over the world say it all – smokers do not live as long as non-smokers. Smokers get all kinds of cancers much more than non-smokers, and that’s all kinds – not just lung cancers. Smokers get more heart attacks than non-smokers. Do you want me to go on? In the face of all the evidence, continuing smoking in 2006 is just plain dumb. So how do you give up? The best method remains your positive desire to give up and then go Cold Turkey. Forget the rest.

The next resolution is very easy. Take 100 milligrams of aspirin every day. Once again, the big numbers prove the hypothesis. Your chances of having a heart attack are very much less by that simple expedient of 100 milligrams of aspirin a day. You can either buy 100 milligram tablets, such as Cardiprin, or take quarter of an ordinary 500 milligram aspirin tablet, which is 125 mgm. Close enough.

Another easy resolution is to get more exercise – daily. This is a resolution that will tone up your cardiovascular system and reduce your chances of having that final coronary occlusion (or as it is often called, a coronary conclusion)! You don’t need to go to a gymnasium, pump iron, take steroids or wear those silly strappy singlets either. Half an hour of brisk walking, or fifteen minutes of exercising each day will do. (I use the Canadian 5BX system and spend 11 minutes a day because I do it quickly!)

Since you are what you eat, or so it is said, your next resolution should be to look at exactly what you do eat. Cut down on animal fats (where you get your cholesterol from) and increase your intake of fish is a good start. Eat ‘Asian’ twice a week, fish twice a week, and sensibly for the other three days.

How’s the alcohol intake these days? Fuzzy heads in the morning? Then perhaps you should include alcohol reduction in your resolutions too. Four ‘standard’ drinks a day for men and two for women (sorry girls, but you don’t handle alcohol as well as we do)! Plus at least one AFD (alcohol free day) per week.

What is a ‘standard’ drink? That is taken as 10 grams of alcohol - equal to one glass of full strength beer (285 mls), one small (100ml) glass of wine, or one measure (30ml) of spirits. One can of regular beer contains about one and half standard drinks, while a bottle of wine contains about seven.

Happy New Year, and stay well in 2006.


Agony Column

G’day Hillary,
Another year has passed where I have not been able to get back to the Land of Smiles and that’s sad. One compensating factor though is that I can read your column each week which always provides a smile from Thailand even if I’m not there in person. Thank you for another wonderful year of advice to the lovelorn and other foolish falangs, who seem to asking the same questions as others were 25 years ago. Please express my gratitude to all the writers and staff of Chiangmai Mail and assure them that their efforts are appreciated across the globe by anyone who has fond memories of what the city of fun has to offer. A merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year to you all. Sawatdee Pi mai,
David, Western Australia
Dear David,
Thank you, on behalf of all the elves that work in the Editorial Office, for best wishes. Christmas was certainly merry, but I am baulking at this big word called “prosperous”. Does this mean I am going to have a change of occupation? The reason I ask is because I have yet to meet an Agony Aunt who owns a Mercedes or a designer home. For me, it is a life of hammering away on the keys and dreaming of knights in shining armor, weighed down with bottles of bubbly and boxes of chocolates. Perhaps I should be asking for donations of share certificates? Sawasdee Bee Mai to you too.

Dear Hillary,
I posted some Belgian chocolates to you today as promised, unlike that stingy Mr.Singha, I did keep my word. I hope they arrive safe and sound, the boxes are wrapped in foil so I hope they will be okay. Thanks for printing my letters to you. I’m Derrick, an Australian made in England, but who’s heart is 100 percent Thai. Thanks for your great column Hillary and I wish you and all at Chiangmai Mail a very Happy and Healthy Farrang New Year. Lotsaluv.
Delboy

Dear Delboy,
I did thank you last week crossing my fingers that they would arrive, but I have now reprinted your letter to let you know the two boxes were delivered, in great shape, and were delightful. Thank you again. It is someone like you that gives everyone renewed hope in human nature! And in chocolates!

Dear Hillary,
I work in an office with ten Thai girls. Some people would think that is the greatest thing that could ever happen, but let me tell you it isn’t. I sit there at my desk while they chat and gossip and laugh at people. I reckon I would do twice as much work as all ten of them put together. Sometimes it is hard for me to get my work done too as they are so noisy, but their male supervisor, who is Thai too, just joins in the overall noise and never tells them to get back to their desks and do some work, but is very quick to tell me I’ve done something wrong. They also keep taking my pens and rulers and never put them back. What do you suggest, Hillary?
Cheesed off Charlie

Dear Cheesed off Charlie,
You really have got a problem. You are totally outnumbered and it sounds as if your male buddy isn’t too worried about your worries either. Complaining isn’t going to get you anywhere. You have a couple of options. Move to another office, or if that isn’t possible, move to another employer. I can’t see any compromise situation that would work for you, I’m afraid. Best of luck, Charlie!

Dear Hillary,
I have been to Thailand a few times, so I know the ropes, or at least I think I do. I have never been one for the bar girls, and while I enjoy a drink and some company, I have never felt the need to take one home, if you know what I mean. Well, I went to a disco and met a young woman there and we clicked straight away. From there we went to a couple of bars and by the end of the evening we were a pair. I didn’t have much of my holiday left, but we managed to find accommodation in Koh Chang and we spent a wonderful week together. I’m back in the UK now and we have stayed in touch with emails and she is saying she wants me to come back over as soon as possible. I can see I am falling for this girl big time, but when I read all the problems guys have had in your column, I wonder if I should just give up now before I get too deep. She hasn’t asked for money, but it’s only been a couple of months. What’s my chances, Hillary?
Wondering

Dear Wondering,
What’s your chances of what? Of being asked for money? Very high! What you have to remember is just how long have you known this wonderful girl, Wondering? It sounds like one week, at the end of a holiday, living on a tropical island. How close to reality is that? Not very is the answer. Would you do all this with a girl you met in a disco in Blackpool after one week? I don’t think so. Sure, keep in touch, but go slowly, Petal. Go slowly.


Camera Class:  Is this the ultimate digital?

by Harry Flashman

The Hasselblad company’s range of 6x6 cm cameras have been one of the mainstays of professional photography. For many (and me included), they were the ultimate work-horse in the professional photographer’s armamentarium. Now Has-
selblad has produced the Hasselblad 22 megapixel fully digital H2D which would have to be considered as having come close to the ultimate in digital photography. 22 megapixels!

By the way, just in case you think that digital photography is something recent, October 7, 2005 marked the 30th anniversary of the digital camera. In 1975, the world’s first digital photograph was taken at a Kodak lab in Rochester, NY, USA, in an event that preceded the Compact Disc, the Personal Computer and the Internet. It was designed and built by Steven Sasson, an engineer at Kodak’s Applied Electronics Research Centre, and it weighed around four kilograms, and needed 16 AA batteries! And we have the gall to complain about the lithium-ion batteries of today!

But back to the present. A year after the launch of the Hasselblad H1, the Swedish company has developed the H2 cross platform camera and the H2D fully-integrated digital camera. Both the cameras include a series of brand new features, and are fully compatible with Hasselblad’s existing H system lenses.

The H2 and H2D cameras deliver improved mobility, quality, and workflow, say the manufacturers. This new camera features include a highly advanced image approval and selection tool, called Instant Approval Architecture providing a swift and easy way to select and classify images.

Additionally, Hasselblad has built into the H2 cross-platform camera a new single-battery operation of the camera with the new Ixpress CFH digital back, offering one on/off switch and one operating system, facilitating streamlined, integrated operation. With existing digital backs already in the market, the H2 delivers the exact functionality of the H1.

The digital Hasselblad results in much from the association with Imacon.

Christian Poulsen, CEO of Hasselblad said, “In the
year since Hasselblad and Imacon joined forces, we have been inundated with constructive feedback from professional photographers worldwide, eager to see Hasselblad’s legendary quality evolve with developments in digital technology. When we reviewed their wishes, we were able to distil them into five key areas - format, storage, open standards, image approval and selection, and image color refinement. This gave us a clear blueprint for the next phase of our product development.”

Today’s professional photographers demand higher resolution, less noise, and improved composition, all of which are addressed with Hasselblad’s new camera platform. The H2 and H2D use an optical format much larger than 35mm, with a
large format, high quality 22 Megapixel CCD sensor
measuring 37mm x 49mm. Coupled with an ultra bright, extra large ‘H-size’ viewfinder enabling better image composition, the final result is an image quality that exceeds normal expectations of medium format photography, which was already very high, hence the use of medium format professionally.

Hasselblad has also worked closely with Adobe to make its new cameras fully compatible with Adobe’s raw
image format called DNG (‘Digital NeGative’), bringing this new technology standard to the professional photographer for the first time. The DNG file format enables raw, compressed image files to be opened directly in Adobe Photoshop CS. This allows photographers to operate quickly
and efficiently, reducing the “downtime” taken to process image data and enabling
final images to reach the
customer more quickly. Hasselblad image files now carry a full set of metadata, including capture conditions, keywords and copyright, facilitating work with image asset management solutions. For specialist commercial photographers the full productivity and cre-
ative freedom offered
by Hasselblad’s FlexColor workflow software is also available via importing the DNG file. The new FlexColor now allows the photographer to manipulate colour temperature and compare image details across multiple images for precise image selection.

Christian Poulsen, CEO of Hasselblad says, “The result is a new range of technologically advanced products that will change the working habits of general and specialist professional photographers, providing them with the tools they need to capture magical images, while growing a profitable, customer-focused business.”

With this capability to have 22 megapixels in medium format, the Hasselblad is also joined by Mamiya and Pentax. With the advent of these, the film camera is now (unfortunately) dead and buried.


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

by Dr Byte, Citec Asia

So here we are. The birth of the New Year and most of us will be wondering
what the New Year will bring. New jobs, new techology, a win on the lottery, new love....what ever it is, the New Year is a new beginning and before we lay the old year to rest, I have some interesting web sites I spotted during 2005 for you to look at.

Did you know there is a web site dedicated to International Shoe Size Conversions? Considering the free-trade movement has made great progress and that shoes are a popular export item for many countries, it’s astounding that there are so many different shoe size standards. It makes shopping difficult, especially if you are picking up a pair while travelling abroad. This handy little web page aims to help you navigate the various standards to pick the shoes that fit best.

From Britain to Mexico, Japan, the US and Australia, the table lets you compare sizes. It also provides the length of each standard in centimetres. Go to http://www.i18nguy.com/l10n/shoes.html

I sometimes get the opportunity to browse news related web sites and being Australian, some of these are home grown. I came across a very interesting look at Islamic Terrorism since 2001 - produced by the famous ABC Australia’s Four Corners Program.

It’s not the most joyous topic to dwell on, granted, but given the current climate it’s worth staying well informed on the issue. ABC’s Four Corners has packaged its coverage of Islamic terrorism since the events of September 11, 2001, to make this web presentation that examines the impact locally and abroad. The report is thorough and compelling, starting with the forces that helped to shape Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist network and moving through to Jemaah Islamiah’s reach into Australia. Some of the footage is a chilling reminder of the attacks that have been carried out. Go and have a look at: http://abc.net.au/4corners/special
_eds/082004/

From the time I learned to read, I have always had a fascination with Science Fiction. What I really do find fascinating now, is that its less Sci Fi and more Sci Fact. I sometimes visit the NASA web site and came across this little gem. “Near Earth Object Program”.

OK, you can stop biting your fingernails, the asteroid known as 2004 MN4 is unlikely to crash into the earth on April 13, 2029. The good news came from arguably the most useful project that NASA has on its books, the Near Earth Object Program, which studies the potential impact with Earth of various orbiting bodies. After taking snaps of the sizeable asteroid at the Spacewatch
Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, it was determined that the body is going to miss Earth, albeit not by much. Considering MN4 is 400 metres in diameter and travelling at tens of thousands of kilometres an hour, this is good news. Log on here to find out about the other asteroids that NASA is tracking and the potential risk they pose to our fragile planet. Have a look at: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news148.html

While we are at the NASA web site, everyone will be fascinated by the Solar System Simulator. Junior’s and oldies like me, will have some fun running this online simulator. Have a look at: http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/

SoYouWanna.com teaches you how to do all the things nobody taught you in school. So you wanna (SYW) cure that New Years Eve hangover? SYW convert to Buddhism? SYW mix a few classic drinks? Its all here and more. Have a look at http://www.soyouwanna.com/

Last and not least, a fascinating Thai web site that I think many of you will enjoy. If you have never visited any of the Thai Royal Palaces, then now is your chance. The web site is in both English and Thai, and includes many fascinating Virtual clips - you will need the Quick Time Plugin to see them, but once that has been installed into your browser, see 360 degree reality using your mouse to drag the image left or right, up or down and zoom in and out to anything interesting. Enjoy: http://www.palaces
.thai.net

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 your not expecting them and last but not least, make sure your Firewall is on. Dr Byte appears in Chiang Mai Mail every 2 weeks and if you have any questions or suggestions you would like to make, you can contact me at Dr Byte, Chiang Mai Mail. Happy New Year to all.


Money Matters:  How to learn from History (Part 2)

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

We saw in last week’s update that the potential power of the stock market is enormous. We also saw that this power can equally be used for good or for evil - wealth can be created or destroyed by both short term and long term fluctuations.

It’s well known that the prices of stocks can go up or down and yet most equity investors ignore this. They stake their investment entirely on the principle that stocks will increase in value. Ultimately, over time, that’s probable. However, as anyone who invested from 1929 to 1983 can testify, the growth in the value of their portfolio (less than 1% per year) was much less than the rate of inflation over that time.

Most folks say that they’re long term investors, but when 54 years isn’t long enough, you can understand why we tend to believe that long term investments are short term investments that people made which went wrong.

This focus on just making money from stocks increasing in value is ubiquitous. Recently, The Seattle Times recently carried an article featuring the thoughts of Tom Muldowney, managing director of Savant Capital Management in Rockford, Illinois who firmly believes that you can reduce your portfolio expense ratio and also lower your portfolio risk by holding no-frills index funds. Muldowney’s argument was that index funds have a lower kurtosis (risk of total loss) than hedge funds and, therefore, are lower risk.

This was a reaction to the recent rise in popularity of hedge funds due to their perceived lower risk and more consistent returns than investing in equities. Muldowney’s response is that index funds (which replicate the performance of an index such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average - less an annual management fee) are easier to understand and more accessible than hedge funds.

We’ll evaluate the merits of hedge funds in the near future, but this perception of index funds worries us. Index funds represent a cheap and easy way to buy exposure to the growth of an index. They are an ideal way to trade in and out of a market for short term gain.

For longer term investors they have the drawback that they don’t benefit from the dividend yield. The dividend is a variable annual discretionary payment to the shareholders as their share of the distributed profits the company has made.

“What is a dividend but your payment as an owner of the company?” said Joseph Lisanti, editor of S&P’s weekly newsletter, The Outlook. “If you don’t get that, then the only way you can profit from your investment is to sell all of it or part of it ... Otherwise, what’s the return on your investment?”

Dividend payments do fluctuate over time:

The historical dividend yield for the Standard & Poor’s 500 has been at times roughly 4 percent

The yield last month was just 1.70 percent, despite companies in the index sitting on a near-record $621.7 billion cash pile

In the 1930s-1950s, when growth was around 3% per year, dividends added a further 2% per year income.

In the 1970s, when growth was less than 0.5% per year, dividends supplemented this by around 0.3% per year

Dividends waned in the 1990s with newer companies unable to pay them and TMT (telcoms, media, technology) companies argued that their money was better spent investing in the business or buying competitors.

Dividends became relegated to “old economy” companies, or unfashionable industries, such as tobacco, which paid investors a premium to hold on to their stocks. However, four of the nine stocks in the Standard & Poor’s 500 that initiated dividends this year are in the tech sector.

Legislative changes are helping to encourage dividend payments in the US. The tax treatment of dividends changed in 2003 when a 15 percent tax on dividends replaced the tax structure, in which dividends were taxed at the same rate as investors’ income.

In a 2002 paper titled “Why are dividends disappearing? An empirical analysis” Malcolm Baker of Harvard Business School and Jeffrey Wurgler of New York Univer-
sity’s Stern School of Business found dividend payments grow when investors are willing to pay more for stocks with strong dividends and shrink when investors aren’t willing to pay more for stocks with strong dividends. So, investor behaviour could change corporate behaviour.

However, the basic flaw of ETFs is that they do what they say they do - they replicate the index. So, while they might offer a convenient and speedy way to make short term tactical profits from the market, they still present the same problem as traditional long equity investment.

In a falling market they fall just like the market does. They represent a mechanism for achieving cost-effective short term long exposure to a market. They’re not a methodology, merely a convenient cost-effective mechanism. They don’t reduce market risk or allow you to achieve neutrality (the ability to make money in rising or falling markets). They don’t allow investors to monitor or control risk or have any expectation of what returns should be, positive, negative or otherwise. Right now, we’d look to avoid them as we believe that the markets are approaching their inflexion point (they’re about to crash and burn horribly).

Why do we think that? That’s getting us back to our favourite topic of whinging about the economy and we’ll slip that in under the pretext of equity investing 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: Happy You Near, Chiangmai!

by Scott Jones

I’m not sure how many cities there are in America, but every one of them is way below Chiangmai on the list of desirable and stimulating places to live. Sure, you can complain about a few things here: traffic jams composed of people driving anything with wheels after drinking anything with alcohol, only three trash cans in the whole city, air pollution in January from hill tribes and farmers slashing and burning, or stunning women (Men? A bit of both in one body?) yelling “Bai nai? Bai nai? Want good time?” Next time you’re whining about Chiangmai, consider your options.

You could try Bland. Dictionary says: “without any excitement, strong opinions, or special character.” Or Browse, though you can’t live there. You can only wander through, looking for nothing in particular. Depressed? Try Downer where you’ll need uppers to survive the downers. If “Home of Flat-Nose Tree Climbing Bulldog” is the best attraction they have to offer, I don’t want to live in Dovesville. Obviously the bulldog fell out of the tree too many times and landed on its nose.

If you really can’t make up your mind, perhaps your destiny is Uncertain. At least the people from Peculiar know what they are and advertise their eccentricities. You could be stuck in Concrete. “I live in Concrete. It’s a hard life. I met a construction worker, cemented the relationship, built a strong foundation and now we have a little sidewalk running around the house.” Claxton: Fruitcake Capital of the Entire World? Dictionary says a fruitcake is “someone who is mentally ill or behaves in a strange manner.” I’ll take Thailand any day.

Happy New Year, Chiang-mai!

I’m Happy You Near!