Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dogs - Man’s best friend

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

The Doctor's Consultation: Work is the curse of the drinking classes!

One of the lesser known medical specialties is Occupational Medicine. This is the study of worker health, how the workplace affects health, the man-machine interface, industrial exposure to contaminants and many other occupational hazards. One example of occupationally induced conditions is known as ‘Vibration White Fingers’ and comes under the general umbrella of an interesting set of conditions known as Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Since doctors like to have conditions named after them, Raynaud’s phenomenon comes from Dr. Maurice Raynaud, a French physician who published a report in 1862 of a young woman whose fingertips changed colors when she was cold or under stress. He is credited with the discovery of the condition. Thank you Dr. Raynaud!

Raynaud’s phenomenon, sometimes called Raynaud’s syndrome or disease, is a disorder of blood circulation in the fingers. This condition is usually produced by exposure to cold which reduces blood circulation causing the fingers to become pale, waxywhite or purple. This condition is sometimes called “white finger”, “wax finger”
or “dead finger”. These attacks occur when the hands or the whole body get cold either at work or at home. Ordinary activities resulting in cold exposure can include washing a car, holding a cold steering wheel, or the cold handlebars of a bicycle. Attacks of white finger can also occur when a person is outdoors watching sports, or while gardening, fishing or golfing in cold weather.

Typical attacks occur with tingling and slight loss of feeling or numbness in the fingers, blanching or whitening of the fingers, usually without affecting the thumb, and pain, sometimes with redness, which accompanies the return of blood circulation generally after 30 minutes to two hours.

Many cases of Raynaud’s phenomenon are such that we cannot identify the cause. To escape the embarrassment of admitting that we just don’t know, we call this
“primary Raynaud’s phenomenon” or even “constitutional” white finger. Howe-
ver, when we do know the occupational cause of Raynaud’s phenomenon we call it “secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon”!

In the occupational sphere, there are many causes of this secondary condition. It is most commonly associated with hand-arm vibration syndrome but it is also involved in other occupational diseases. Awareness of the condition can help prevent the disorder from occurring or progressing, as if not detected in the early stages, the disorder can permanently impair blood circulation in the fingers.

Exposure to vibration from power tools is by far the greatest concern in secondary Raynauds. Hand-held power tools such as chain saws, jackhammers and pneumatic rock drillers and chippers can cause “hand-arm vibration syndrome”. This disorder is the “vibration white finger”, “hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)”, or “secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon of occupational origin.” In early years, before the cancer-causing effects of vinyl chloride monomer were known, workers exposed
to high levels of this chemical also experienced Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Although Raynaud’s phenomenon is not life threatening, severe cases cause disability and may force workers to leave their jobs and workman’s compensation issues may end up in courts of law. Although rare, severe cases can lead to breakdown of the skin and gangrene. Less severely affected workers sometimes have to change their social activities and work habits to avoid attacks of white finger.

The underlying cause relates to the physiology of maintaining an even body temperature. Usually, the body conserves heat by reducing blood circulation to the extremities, particularly the hands and feet. This response uses a complex system of nerves and muscles to control blood flow through the smallest blood vessels in the skin. In people with Raynaud’s phenomenon, this control system becomes too sensitive to cold and greatly reduces blood flow in the fingers.

So that is the story of Raynaud’s phenomenon. Fortunately, in our warm tropical climate it is rarely seen, other than the occupational secondary variety.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I have been reading your columns for many years and can see that you have a sweet tooth. Every week there’s you crying for champagne and chocolates. Have you got any teeth left? Have you ever been stopped for driving with too much champagne? Honest answer, please. I’ll still love you even if you have.
Don the Dentist

Dear Don the Dentist,
What a sweet man you are, and let me assure you that I still have a full mouth of teeth, however I have to admit that not all of them are originals. But a couple still are. My dentist says it’s because I have chalky teeth, and since I always clean my teeth after choccie chewing, it’s nothing to do with the chocolate. Yes, my Petal, I do love champagne, or the sparkling ‘methode champenoise’ from other wine growing regions, and I can honestly say I have lived in many countries but I have never been arraigned for drinking and driving over the limit. And what about you, Don the Dentist? Do you still have as many teeth as you once had, and what about driving? You have to be honest too!

Dear Hillary,
Beats me how all these blokes get themselves into so much trouble with the local girls. Surely they know that their most important feeture (sic) lies in their trousers, and its not in the crutch, but in the pockets. Don’t they know it after all this time? Who would go out with these sad sacks if they weren’t being paid? Somebody called them the “living dead” and I reckon that’s about the best they would be. The local girls will soon finnish (sic) them off, or at least their bank accounts.
Bar room Bert

Dear Bar room Bert,
Aren’t you the high and mighty one? So what if these “living dead” as you and your friends call them are getting a little fun and excitement in their lives, even if it is towards the end. At last count there were no pockets in shrouds, so they can’t take it with them. Why not have a little fun, even if they are paying for it? In their own countries, they can’t even pay for some fun, as all the moralists come down on such an idea. When you look at it all, without putting some sort of judgment on it, it is a win-win situation all round. He gets looked after, while she gets money to send home to mother who will be looking after the baby left to her by the boyfriend who ran away as soon as he knew she was pregnant. It may not be the ideal situation, Bert, but we live in an imperfect world. Just like your spelling. Learn to live and let live, Petal.

Dear Hillary,
You have quoted many times in your answers to the hopeless people who write to you that “You don’t lose your girl, you only lose your turn”. Is this really true? Is this how the farangs see the Thai women? I think it is disgusting, and we would never let this kind of thing happen in England. Somehow this place turns them into animals. Why?
Just sign me Disgusted

Dear Just sign me Disgusted,
Maybe the reason that Thailand makes animals of your men is that you keep them caged up in your country and when they come here it is like being let off the leash. These downtrodden men who now think they have found the Garden of Eden. I also take exception to your referring to my letter writers as “hopeless people”. After all, you have written in too. Are you “hopeless” as well? I think it is time you took Sense of Humor classes, before it is too late, though it may be, when I read your letter again.

Dear Hillary,
The other day you gave advice to some poor chap who had loaned money to a bar girl and more or less said that he was foolish. Surely you have been in love at some stage in your life, Hillary. By the end of the night he was probably seeing the finest girl he had ever seen in the whole world. Why shouldn’t he loan her some money? I’d be interested to know just how many run off with the money and how many give it back. Do you know, Hillary?
Barstool Bill

Dear Barstool,
You work it out! You are the one in the area to do the research. I certainly has been in and out of love frequently (depending on who was buying the champagne, and what vintage it was), but never was the amount of time I have spent sitting and drinking on a barstool the measure of my affections. Hillary is not a miser either and will often contribute to renowned lost causes. Like buying bananas for the elephants or giving, not loaning, a bar girl 100 baht to buy noodles for herself and her friends. There is a difference. When you view the world through your beer glasses, you end up with a distorted view on life and often with an empty wallet as well. Whether or not it gets re-filled is another question. Ask your friends on the other barstools.


Camera Class:  Looking through the lens (darkly)

by Harry Flashman

Here we are in the electronic age of digital cameras that are so small they will fit in your shirt pocket, but there is one factor that has remained the same since the early days of photography. And that is the lens. Whether it is film that the image falls on or a garden full of pixels, that image has to go through the lens.

If you go into the darkroom in any national daily newspaper overseas I will wager you will find an old photographer with an equally old camera. It will be scratched and battered and done the miles, and so will he. The camera will be stuffed full of outdated technology and will have manual focussing. It will be tossed into an old camera bag, apparently carelessly, yet it will produce black and white newspaper prints that are as sharp as a tack.

My introduction to this school of photography came when I was offered the contract to write some photography columns for one of media baron Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers. Part of the deal was free use of the darkroom.

Up till then, my choice of camera had been Hasselblad medium format, but it soon became evident that everything in the darkroom was set up for the usual 35 mm
film, so enquiries were made around the pro suppliers for a new 35 mm camera. One of these outlets had just received the latest in auto-focus, super electronic 35 mm cameras and left it with me for appraisal for a month.

On paper it was wonderful. It had programmes on pro-
grammes to cover every conceivable photographic situation. It had a “brain” that was supposed to understand that you were attempting to shoot a moving train and would work out the best split second to fire off the shutter as it follow-focussed. It could automatically “bracket” theexposures to give one slightly underexposed and another slightly overexposed compared to the auto exposure setting. It could even remember what settings had been used to produce the picture.

This piece of gear should have impressed the old photographers. It didn’t. My pictures weren’t sharp. Reasoning that it had to be poor technique, for the next week the camera was mounted on a tripod and lo and behold – the results were still “soft.” Hard bitten press photographers with outdated equipment were producing the goods, and the very latest bit of electronic whizzbangery was producing something which at best could be described as “average.” I was in despair. Here I was, the “outside” hot-shot, brought in to write columns on photography and my photos were fuzzy.

I confided in the pictorial editor who threw me an old Nikon FM2 which had probably seen more rolls of film through it than I’d had hot dinners. It was well worn. “Try this for a week” was his reply. So I took the “old” camera away and shot a multitude of photos. Off to the darkroom and guess what? Every one as sharp as a tack. The super electronic marvel was returned and I bought some second hand Nikon equipment, and never regretted it since. In fact, old Nikons are still part of my camera equipment.

So what was the difference? Well, the end result will always rely on super sharp optics in the lens department. If the lens is not spot on, neither will your photos. The actual exposure values are close enough for just about any camera these days, so the real differences now come down to just how good is the lens!

The important lesson from all that is that to get good results you need a camera that has good optics. There are plenty on the market these days, and although the Nikon brand may be my favourite, there are other manufacturers which have equally as sharp good glass at the front. Unfortunately, the results from these great cameras can become poor if you put a cheap “after market” lens on it. Good lenses are expensive, but the end result is worth it.


Dogs - Man’s best friend: General Health Care – internal parasites

Nienke Parma

There are many kinds of parasites that can become a health hazard to our pets, including endo- and exo-parasites and others such as protozoa, bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Endo-parasites can roughly be divided in intestinal and heart worms. The most common ones in dogs are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, threadworms, tapeworms and heartworms.

The worms live within their host where they, in order to survive and reproduce, obtain nutrients. The more parasites the less nutrients will be available for the host, resulting in a declining health of the animal, or sometimes even death. However, dogs are capable of developing a resistance to the roundworms, hookworms and threadworms. Resistance to roundworms appears to be age-related. Immunosuppressive drugs like cortisone, stressful events and emotional upsets have been shown to activate large numbers of certain worm larvae lying dormant in the animal’s tissue.

Intestinal worms can be acquired by eating or licking contaminated soil or feces. Tapeworm is commonly acquired by fleas, and heartworm is brought over by mosquitoes.

Symptoms of an intestinal worm infestation can include weight loss, pot-bellied look especially in puppies, diarrhea sometimes with blood, anemia, loss of or increased appetite and poor coat condition. Heartworm infestation can be recognized by chronic cough, lack of stamina, difficult breathing, weakness, fainting and heart failure.

Prevention starts with a good nutritional diet and adequate exercise. Many of the intestinal parasites will be sloughed off while the animal detoxifies and builds up strength. Also, good sanitation and maintaining clean, dry living quarters will help. And further, by simply mixing supplements such as ground pumpkin or papaya seeds, coconut meat and one or two cloves of garlic twice a week through the animal’s food, the intestinal environment will be made unpleasant for the parasites to live in. Dogs in heartworm areas, such as Thailand, should be kept in the house at night or sleep under mosquito nets. In the evenings their coats can be rubbed with eucalyptus oil or lemon rinse. And there are several heartworm prevention medicines on the market.

For intestinal worms it is advisable to have the animal’s stool checked every three months. If there are many found, then the animal can be treated with regular or homeopathic medicines. Regular medicines are safe and easy to apply, although sometimes resistance or side-effects can occur. The latter is not known in the homeopathic medicines, which even improve the animal’s immune system and condition. Disadvantage is that these medicines need long-standing application. Recurrent infestations, however, indicate that the animal’s resistance is not high and, therefore, its underlying poor health needs to be addressed as well. Heartworm treatment is dangerous to the animal and very expensive.

To be continued …

For more information on pet diets, and on dog and cat boarding, dog training and behavior, please visit www.luckydogs.info or contact LuckyDogs: 09 99 78 146.


Money Matters:  Early winter is here (Part 1)

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Much of what we believe about the right ways to approach equity investing right now is derived from our views on the global economy - the biggest single component of which is the US economy. The fate of the global economy is now more dependent upon the US economy than ever previously. The States doesn’t even need to sneeze now for the rest of the world to catch a cold, just breathing out its germs is enough. There is no doubt in our mind that the US economy is sick - seriously ill to the extent that major surgery is required and the illness will prevail for up to 5 years before full recovery is achieved.

The twin deficits afflicting the US are well documented - to such a degree that we should actually remind ourselves of the actual numbers because we’ve all become so inured to the fact that the US is heavily in debt, we sometimes tend to actually forget the full extent of it. Firstly though let’s just familiarise ourselves with the terminology of very large numbers. The convention in global financial reports is to use Ame-
rican terminology, namely

1) a thousand million is called a billion (in British terminology it’s a milliard) and looks like this 1,000,000,000

2) a million million is called a trillion (in British terminology it’s called a billion) and looks like this 1,000,000,000,000

Every single day the US Federal government is spending over $2 billion more than it receives as income - around $800 billion this year - at that level it sounds bad enough, but ultimately this isn’t sustainable once you realize that it is eating around 80% of world savings. Dick Cheney has said that deficits don’t matter because the world is happy to finance these deficits. Today it may well be willing and able to do so. Before too much longer it will be unable to do so, willing or not. Generally, however, breakdown occurs before then - as money starts to become more scarce it also becomes more expensive (like any commodity, money is affected by the laws of supply and demand) and the lenders will become less supportive of extending further credit as America’s ability to offer attractive incentives for lending becomes increasingly squeezed and therefore less happy.

So why is the US spending more than it earns every day? Since the Dickensian economics of Mr. Micawber (“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen ... happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result: misery.”) it’s been recognised that unless you live within your means, you’ll face problems in the long run. To understand this we simply need to look at long term economic cycles and human nature (the two are largely interwoven anyway).

On this page is Ian Gordon’s long term Kondratieff Wave model. Long term readers of our views will already be familiar with this. The economic cycle is like the 4 seasons of the year. The business cycle starts with spring. Business trade, demand for goods and services grows, people generally feel good about the future and inflation, from zero or negative levels starts to gently take root. This most recently occurred in the roughly synchronised western eco-nomies from around 1949 to around 1966.

In the ‘summer’ part of the cycle, people and corporations borrow money to increase their expenditure capacity, spending increases unabated and inflation gets out of control leading to high interest rates. This last occurred in the west between 1966-1980.

In ‘Autumn’ inflation is low as a sequel to the higher interest rates of the previous season and, therefore, interest rates fall to low levels. This encourages a late burst of economic activity that is largely funded by unsustainable increases in debt. This last occurred in the western economies from 1980-2000.

The final part of the cycle is ‘winter’. Heavily in debt, people and governments can no longer afford to buy increased levels of goods and services (which is what is needed for economies to grow) and instead of growing, economies contract. Negative growth or recession leaves these carrying heavy debts unable to service them leading to
widespread defaults and bankruptcies, the focus moves to cost-cutting and unemployment levels soar. The West has been in the early stages of winter for the last 4 or 5 years (although we have been protected from seeing the full effects of this by government economic polices, especially in the USA).

In terms of the impact on the stock markets, spring and autumn are very positive, summer is fairly neutral and winter is disastrous. The last complete winter season that we endured took in the Wall Street Crash and the Great Recession. If you work back from that then the cycle has been pretty constant as far as data is reliable (probably around 1000 years in Europe). For instance the previous winter season in the West took in the great US deflation from the 1860s to the 1880s, and was followed by a spring, summer and autumn cycle that lasted into the late 1920s.

All of which rather begs the question - if this is so predictable why hasn’t anything been done about it? Partly it’s because the cycle reflects the inevitable nature of capitalism and mercantilism - if we want our good years, we do have to pay for them in the long run - you can’t have a boom without a bust.

It also reflects the fact that the policy makers in all countries exaggerate these same flaws, although we probably do get the policy makers that we deserve. If a candidate had stood in the US elections of 2000 on the platform of “America needs a short sharp recession now so that we can ensure that the winter season is as mild and brief as possible” he would have stood little chance against a platform of “We can keep this boom going a while longer as long as you don’t worry about the aftermath,” which is why both main candidates stood for economic policies that echoed this latter - although the Bush ticket was undoubtedly the more willing of the two (both in 2000 and 2004) to adopt aggressive policies that ramped up the short term most at greatest long term economic cost.

Former IMF consultant and Financial Sector Specialist of the World Bank Richard Duncan describes in detail (Richard Duncan: The Dollar Crisis - Causes -Consequences - Cures) how the US economic growth of the last 20 years has been fuelled by credit (Fed policy has been to make available sustained easy credit by lowering interest rates to a 40 year low thereby encouraging consumers to take out cheaper mortgage loans and to spend, spend, spend and then re-mortgage and spend some more!), thereby creating a total US debt of almost US$40 trillion (more of that next week).

In other words, long term economic cycles are really accurate reflections of human nature, which is why they have been so constant throughout relatively modern times. Unless people change their fundamental attitudes to wealth, security and their entire
hierarchy of needs, these trends will almost certainly continue.

So that explains how we allowed ourselves to get in such deep debt. Next week, we’ll have a more detailed look at this debt and what it means.

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: Right, Left or Wrong?

by Scott Jones

Americans drive on the right side of the road. Brits drive on the wrong side of the road, I mean, the left side. Thais just drive: right, left, wrong, sidewalk, ditch, whatever.

I am Supreme! You are nothing! Yield or die!

66 percent of the world drives on the right, directly related to the fact that most people are right-handed. Why? Our great-great grandfather to the tenth power, the first ape to pick up a bone and club his mate, did the deed with his right hand. In survival of the fittest fashion, the pack followed suit for centuries until the Brits formalized the custom by walking and riding on the left so clubs, swords or lances carried
in their right hand were ready to dispose of sinister strangers and the rest of the world. In 1300 Pope Benefice decreed that all pilgrims entering Rome to grovel and give him all their money will henceforth walk on the left. In France, the aristocracy and other flush folks wearing ridiculous, frilly outfits rode briskly and haughtily on the left while the rabble walked and crawled on the right. When the French Revolution changed the tides, the rich donned rags and travelled incognito with the poor to keep their heads out of the guillotine basket. Napoleon Bonaparte, whose name can be rearranged to spell “A peon? Nope, anal brat” was descended from the short, balding
left-handed monkey family and finally got his revenge on apekind by decreeing that all vehicles drive on the right and that it is socially acceptable to scratch your navel in public while wearing funny hats and silly, skintight pants.

With thumbs on their noses, shouting “neener, neener, neener”, the upstart Yanks took the advice of France’s General Lafayette who helped them run the British bullies out of the neighborhood and switched to driving on the right side of the road and eventually convinced Canada to do the same. The Asian history follows another lengthy circuitous route but this column isn’t 40 pages long. Cross the bridge from Thailand to Myanmar, Laos or Cambodia, it’s left to right. Hong Kong to China, left to
right.

What happened in Thailand? The law says left and the citizens sing “I’ll Do It My Way.” Weaving through the Land of Smiles there are thin strips of concrete called the Land of Belligerents ruled by people who don’t sub-scribe to national rules, only those from their own reptile brains. On a recent motorcycle trip, I cannot count the amount of times that cars, trucks or other belligerent vehicles almost forced me off the road, speeding into “my” lane around blind curves, over mountain tops and even in construction zones clearly marked with no passing signs when the road was a winding, hazardous hodgepodge of sand, gravel, piles of demolished high
way parts and the dusty remains of entire families dislodged from their Honda Dreams. In survival of the misfittest, biggest and half-wittest fashion, they raced toward me honking, flashing and transmitting their malignant message: “I am Everything! You are nothing! Yield or die!” Okay, fine. In America you may get shot over a parking spot, but at least it’s personal and not an offensive war against inno-cent bystanders around the bend.

In spite of the customary kindness and respect in the Land of Smiles, the Thai heritage is just too hard to shake for brutes in the Land of Belligerents. “I’m riding on an immense elephant through a path in the jungle. Move over or you’re toe jam.”