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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

The Doctor's Consultation: Hack, cough, splutter!

by Dr. Iain Corness

There has been quite an epidemic of coughs and colds recently, so if you haven’t got a cough consider yourself to be lucky. There are many reasons for epidemics such as these, and many occur with the change of seasons, hot to cold, cold to wet and so forth, but with the vast majority, the common carrier of the bug is the human race.
Yes, we are the ones who go to work and spread our germs to the office, exploding an aerosol of potentially debilitating diseases into the air, every time we cough. This is the commonest way of transferring the bugs, by what we call droplet infection. Every droplet capable of carrying thousands of microbes, each one looking for another human to infect. You. Or even me.
The latest bout has been a form of Tracheitis. This is inflammation of the trachea, that part of your breathing tube to the lungs before it splits to become the right and left bronchus. The clue is in the ending – “itis” which generally means inflammation and / or infection. Thus you can get Appendicitis (inflammation of the Appendix) and Pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx), Laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx) etc etc, you get the picture.
Infection and irritation of the breathing tubes is, as we said in the beginning, very common. The most usual cause is however, our old friend cigarette smoking! If you don’t believe that cigarette smoke is irritating, try letting it waft into your eyes and see how they will sting and water. Your Trachea and Bronchi do just the same! Once the irritation begins, the mucosa becomes swollen, and it becomes easier for the germs to take a hold.
With Tracheitis, it generally begins as a slight irritation deep in the back of your throat. There can be some soreness as well, even on swallowing. Unchecked this develops into a ‘productive’ cough, with loads of gunk being coughed up, which we refer to as ‘sputum’.
One of the signs and symptoms your doctor will want to know is “What color is your sputum?” This gives us a chance to see if your cough is from an irritation or infection. If you are bringing up large lumps of yellow or green glue then you have an infection, but if the mucous is clear then you probably do not harbor a nasty little bug in your throat. If however, the sputum is red and bloodstained then you may have burst a little blood vessel in the throat – or of course, this could be an early sign of lung cancer but don’t panic yet!
If the sputum you are coughing up is thick, green and gooey, this is fairly suspicious of a bacterial infection, and sometimes we will attempt to “grow” the bug to identify it. No, this is not for germ warfare, it is just so that we can feed the tracheal bug some different antibiotics to see which ones exterminate the bug best. This is a much more accurate way of choosing the correct antibiotic, than selecting ones by the pretty color they are on the pharmacist’s shelves.
If you have gone over a week and your cough is showing no sign of letting up then it really is time to line up with all the other coughers at the outpatients department. Just make sure you can describe the color of your sputum!
I should have mentioned that if you are a smoker, the chances of the cough lasting longer are much higher, as well as being more likely to catch the cough from someone else.

Agony Column

(Hillary is on holidays this week, so we have re-run one of her previous columns)
Dear Hillary,
I keep on getting offensive emails from people I have never met and I find it annoying to say the least. Is there nothing we ordinary people can do to stop this kind of thing? 90 percent of them seem to be pornographic material sites and yet when you go to the site to try and register a complaint, nothing happens. What do you suggest, Hillary?
Dear Confused,
I’m confused, Petal! Are you really trying to go to the sites suggested to complain or to check them out? I suppose you buy Penthouse magazine for the words too. With the vast majority of unsolicited emails, spam, whether pornographic or not, it is obvious from the subject line they are junk mail. There is usually no need to open them before you trash them. Also most servers have a ‘block sender’ facility where you can stop that particular pest or porn purveyor from ever reaching your in box again. And stop going there for a little peek.
Dear Hillary,
One of the girls in my regular bar was reading a letter from a farang and asked me to translate a couple of sections for her. It was the usual boyfriend to girlfriend letter and in it he said he was looking forward to coming back next month. When I asked her who he was, she said she didn’t remember! Hillary, why do these girls act like this? Surely they must remember, or was she just stringing me along?
Dear Jack,
She wasn’t playing with you – you’re playing with you! That is their job, or didn’t you know. They are usually looking for marriage and future security material, and obviously the fond pen pal hadn’t made as much of an impression as he thought he had.
Dear Hillary,
Recently I find I have become very attracted to one of my workmate’s wife. She is Thai and very beautiful and she has been making it obvious that she would not be averse to something going on either. I know she has been seeing other guys while her husband is offshore. My question is, should I pay her for her time, or should it be more from the heart?
Dear Roger,
You bowl me over. Truly are you are thinking of betraying one of your workmates and wondering about the acceptability of either offering to his wife payment or love for services rendered? The choice is yours but either way you may get more than you bargained for. I hope he’s 2.2 meters tall and a Muay Thai champion. You deserve it, Roger the Lodger!
Dear Hillary,
My boyfriend is football mad. In fact, if there is a match on TV he will get out of our bed, just to watch it. Am I being selfish to pretend to be asleep when he gets back to bed? I feel I have to teach him a lesson.
No Footy Fan.
Dear No Footy Fan,
Not at all selfish, my Petal. However, by discussing how much you feel this practise annoys and insults you may be more effective. Just remember to mention it sweetly when there are no football matches on. There’s ball games and ball games, he should know! If all else fails buy another TV set.
Dear Hillary,
My maid drives me completely insane. She speaks little English and I am not fluent in Thai; however, we usually get by with a few words and miming. She frequently does things which horrify me such as put all the dishes and glasses and pans together in the sink and attempt to wash them with cold running water. Or she will wipe the floor with a dishcloth. I patiently explain and demonstrate the way I want it done, and it is fine for a while then she will go back to the old ways. Most times she will put clothes away in the approximate right place but sometimes for no apparent reason will leave them on the lounge room chair or dresser. Most of the time she does an average to below average job infuriatingly slowly, though sometimes she will do something bizarre such as leaving drying washing in kitchen. If I want something in particular done which should just be routine surely, like dusting the furniture or defrosting the fridge I have to ask her every single time. I truly do not know how to make her more efficient. Do you have any suggestions?
Dear Joan,
For a start you will have to lower your own standards. To preserve your sanity simply do not watch her doing the housework. Go out have fun, change your focus and adopt a “mai pen rai” attitude. If you cannot simply learn to put up and shut up then pay more, approximately double, and hire an English speaking trained housemaid. The other alternative is to do it all yourself. Welcome to the “dishpan hands” club.

Camera Class:  Forget the “A”, develop the “I”

by Harry Flashman

With today’s cameras, be they film or digital, it is very hard to get a poorly exposed photograph. Set the auto-exposure on “A” and let the camera do the rest. 99 times out of 100, the end result will be a print that is perfectly exposed. However, that does not mean that you get 99 great shots out of every 100 exposures! Far from it. In fact, it may surprise you to know that most pro photographers work on a 6 in 36 ratio. Six good shots in a roll of 36. Mind you, those are six ‘commercially viable’ shots!

A different view of a band.
For the non-commercial photographer, there is still an acceptable standard to head towards. But if the magic “A” mode is so good, why do you not get 99 good shots out of 100? The reason is that you have not set the “I” mode. By the way, you can stop looking at the menu in your camera, you won’t find the “I” mode. This mode is under your control, not the camera’s electronics. It is your “eye” I am referring to when I made up the “I” mode terminology.
What we are talking about here is photographic composition. Understanding photographic composition is the key to getting great photographs. What differentiates a “good” photo from a “bad” or “ordinary” one is simply composition. Now the photographer’s “I” is something that you may or may not be blessed with, but there are some easy hints which will improve the composition and final effect of any of your photographs.
The first rule of composition is to Look for a Different Viewpoint. While the standard, Put the Subject in the Middle of the Viewfinder idea will at least ensure that you do get a picture of the subject, it will also ensure that your photograph will be dull and boring! If nothing else, take two shots, one in the “usual” horizontal format and the second one in a vertical (portrait) format.
In attempting to get that different viewpoint also try to take some shots not from the standard eye-level position. Squat down, lie down, stand in the back of a pick-up, climb a ladder – anything! Just don’t get stuck with standard eye-level views.
The next way to add interest to your photographs is to make sure the subject is one third in from either edge of the viewfinder. Just by placing your subject off-centre immediately drags your shot out of the “ordinary” basket. The technocrats call this the “Rule of Thirds”, but you don’t need to know the name for it – just try putting the subjects off-centre. While still on the Rule of Thirds, don’t have the horizon slap bang in the centre of the picture either. Put it one third from the top or one third from the bottom. As a rough rule of thumb, if the sky is interesting put more of it in the picture, but if it is featureless blue or grey include less of it. Simple!
Now what else can you do to improve those shots of yours? One good little trick is to include some details in the foreground of a shot to lead your eye towards the main subject. Look for lines, roads, telephone wires, fences, etc., with strong lines to include in the shot. Arrange the picture so that the lines “point” towards your main subject. A few foreground details also help add interest to any photograph.
One foreground detail to always look for is the possibility of producing a “frame” around the main subject. We call this the Frame within a Frame technique. It is a very successful way to convert an ordinary shot into one with a lot of visual appeal. And this is indeed a successful ploy. You will find that many prize winning photographs use that technique.
Perhaps the last tip in making your shots more interesting is to include people in them where possible. That shot of sweeping rolling hills always looks better if you can put some human interest into it as well. A girl on a horse, a couple on a seat or a jogger all help to elevate a landscape above the hum-drum.

Money Matters:  The Fed

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

We recently looked at the tenure of Alan Greenspan of the office of Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, but what exactly is the Fed and what does it do?
The Federal Reserve System is the central bank of the United States, comprised of the Federal Reserve Board, the 12 Federal Reserve Banks, and the national and state member banks. Its primary purpose is to regulate the flow of money and credit in the country.
The Board of Governors is made up of 7 members that are appointed to 14-year terms, while appointments to the roles of chairman and vice chairman are for four years, by the President and approved by the Senate. The terms of Federal Reserve governors are as long as they are (second only to lifetime appointments of federal judges) to insulate the members from political pressures and foster independent decisions.
Almost all U.S. banks are a part of the Federal Reserve System, which requires that those banks maintain a certain percentage of their assets deposited with the regional Federal Reserve Bank. It was founded by Congress in 1913 to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, stronger and more stable monetary, banking and financial system, or to quote from the act that called it into being, “To provide for the establishment of Federal reserve banks, to furnish an elastic currency, to afford means of rediscounting commercial paper, to establish a more effective supervision of banking in the United States, and for other purposes.”
Over the years, its role in banking and the economy has expanded. Today, the Federal Reserve’s duties fall into four general areas: conducting the nation’s monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation’s banking and financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets providing financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions, including playing a major role in operating the nation’s payments system.
Before the establishment of the Federal Reserve System, banks maintained the reserves required to be held against their deposits partly in the form of cash in their vaults and partly in the form of deposits held with other banks. In general, banks in smaller cities and rural regions tended to maintain the bulk of their reserve balances with banks in larger cities. A very large volume of these reserve balances was maintained in New York City and Chicago. These two cities and St. Louis were designated as central reserve cities, and National banks there had to maintain all their legal reserves in the form of cash in their own vaults.
When banks across the country needed to draw down their reserve balances, this resulted in a concentration of this activity on the few National banks situated in the financial centres. Ordinarily, the situation was manageable - while some country banks would be drawing down their balances, others would be building theirs up.
Occasionally, the demand became widespread and intense and banks all over the country would call on the Chicago and New York banks for currency, which the city banks were obliged to supply and charge to the reserve balances of the country banks. Meeting this demand could be difficult for the city banks because the currency constituted their own reserves and there was no source on which they could rely for additional reserve funds.
The efforts of these banks to protect their reserves frequently involved the sale of securities and the refusal to make loans and renewals, with the result that securities prices would fall, interest rates would rise, borrowing would become difficult, and loans would have to be liquidated.
Panics and crises like this were apt to occur every few years, and in 1907 there was one of unusual severity. Congress appointed a National Monetary Commission shortly thereafter for the purpose of determining what should be done. There was active and thorough consideration of the question for several years, and though Congress greatly modified the plan recommended by the Commission, it eventually adopted legislation embodying the results of the study both by the Commission and other authorities inside and outside of Congress.
The resulting legislation created The Federal Reserve on December 23, 1913, with the signing of the Federal Reserve Act by President Woodrow Wilson. The act had been drafted as House Resolution 7837 by Representative Carter Glass (D-VA), incoming chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee.
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]