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Your Health & Happiness

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in the Laugh Lane

Your Health & Happiness: Samui Spa Fair

Chiang Mai was represented by Chitra Klanprayoon (third from right) from Ban Sabai Spa Village and Resorts Chiang Mai and Samui talking here to Wanwarlee Tantikarn, (second right) president of the Samui Spa Assoc. and Privy Councillor Plakorn Suwanaratana (right).

Chiangmai Mail Reporters
Besides art and culture, health and Spa are the key words in Chiang Mai, and in order to help promoting this in other Thai provinces, the Samui Spa Fair 2006 was held during the second week of May, well attended by interested visitors, and also represented by Chiang Mai’s Spa owner Chitra Klanprayoon, from Ban Sabai Village.
Samui aims at becoming another spa destination for high end travelers, as Chiang Mai is already known for, with their own Spa association.
Samui Spa Fair presented herbal products, aimed highly at health and nutrition products and the sales of OTOP goods which is very successful in Northern Thailand. Seminars and educational speeches were delivered and one can only hope that Samui will achieve attracting not only beach lovers in the future but also art, culture, and health interested people.
The Spa Invitation of Thailand which started in March 2006 in Bangkok will travel around Thailand and after Surat Thani province (Samui), it will hit Hua Hin, Cha-am, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Phuket and Krabi during 2006.

The Doctor's Consultation: Giving up cigarettes – a personal experience

by Dr. Iain Corness

I used to smoke 45 cigarettes a day. I gave up 24 years, 10 months ago at 10 o’clock in the morning, not that I’m counting or anything! It was probably one of the most momentous decisions I have ever made, and definitely one of the best decisions I ever made about my health.
It was 1981, and I had started smoking as a medical student around 20 years previously. It was just the done thing at the time. We all smoked, it made us feel older and more mature. After all our fathers all smoked, so it was almost a ‘badge’ of adulthood. A rite of passage, perhaps.
As the evidence began to mount up against cigarette smoking at the end of the ‘70’s and the early ‘80’s, I found myself in the ridiculous position of advising people to give up smoking, while I hid my ashtray in the bottom drawer of my desk, and waved my hand around a lot before the next patient came in!
Like all smokers, I was able to rationalise my stand. I was advising patients whose lung function tests were down, but mine were perfect. If mine fell, then I certainly would give up smoking immediately. Yes, you are way in front of me, aren’t you! I had to test my lung function machine one day – and there was the proof – my respiratory function was 15 percent below the “average” for my age and height. It was ‘bite the bullet’ time! The biter was bit, hoist by my own petard and other aphorisms.
So, I just gave up smoking. It was going to be easy, because I still considered myself to be a “social” smoker. I could give up when I felt like it. I expected that there would be a couple of ‘difficult’ days, but then the cravings would abate and I would be smoke free again. Two days was an understatement. For two weeks, I would follow other smokers down the road, nostrils flared and twitching as I desperately tried to get a whiff of their second hand nicotine. I would look at ashtrays, wondering if I could take a quick lick before anyone would notice my bizarre behaviour. Really, it was a very stressful time of my life.
But after two weeks, the cravings became less, I was able to have a beer without looking for a cigarette at the same time and I had schooled myself into saying, “Thanks, but I don’t smoke,” when offered a cigarette. But it was still very difficult.
In fact, it still is very difficult. I am sure that if I smoked a cigarette today I would be smoking 20 tomorrow and 45 the day after. But I don’t, because I made a conscious decision, based on medical knowledge, all those years ago!
Today, the medical evidence is not just suggestive, it is totally compelling. Cigarette smoking increases your chances of getting just about everything you don’t want, from crow’s feet to cataracts to cancers (all of them, not just lung cancer). So why do we still smoke, any rational member of society would ask? The simple answer is that we, as a society, have been manipulated by big business into taking an extremely addictive drug called nicotine.
Like all addicts, we do not wish to admit to addiction, saying, “I can kick the habit any time I want. I just don’t want to right now.” It isn’t your ‘fault’ that you are continuing to smoke. It isn’t your fault that you have returned to smoking after some time of being a non-smoker. It is a drug of addiction and next week I’ll tell you how to stop – permanently!

Agony Column

Dearest Hillary,
I just moved here to the land of smiles after my wife Sally Sue passed after being stabbed 25 times. I’ve come to Pattaya because I’ve been told that the women are very attractive, but on my first nite, I found a lovely girl and we were about to do the deed when Joob the girl I met, turned out to be a man. I was very shocked and called the police. Please give me some help, I feel partially homosexual, and I’m contemplating suicide because I miss my wife and want to join her next to God in heaven. Please reply soon. By the way, I love your work and the way you can endlessly help people. I want to be like you in my next life.
Cheers from Alabama!
Billy Joe

Dear Billy Joe,
There is so much in your letter, I am unsure where to start. Now, taking Sally Sue first and the “passed after being stabbed 25 times.” Was that all at the same time, or are we looking at separate incidents? Hopefully this was all at once, not that I would wish that on anyone (not even Mistersingha), but if you’re going to go, get it over quickly would be my idea. And did they catch the perpetrator(s)? Or was it you? I also wonder about “passed”. Did you mean to write “passed away”, or was it just that she “passed” on coming with you to the Land of Smiles? Such a shame, if this was the case, as your friend Joob could have helped her. However, it is very important to get ‘closure’ on traumatic events such as this, so I hope that writing about it has helped, my Petal. Or helped Sally Sue.
Now, about feeling “partially homosexual”, I need to know more details here. Which part of you feels this way? Have you thought that perhaps you are bisexual? This is nothing to do with riding bicycles in Alabama, by the way. Your friend from the first night, Joob, could have helped you with this conundrum as well, if you hadn’t called for the coppers.
You also worry me with your implied threats of suicide so that you can meet Sally Sue, who is apparently next to God in heaven. I’m not sure that any of the usual gods are that enthusiastic about having young ladies with 25 stab wounds lying next to them anywhere, let alone in heaven where they can be seen by cherubic children with harps, if any of the classical paintings of life in heaven are anything to go by. (Anyway, I hate harp music, and I believe it also gives you ‘harpes’ which can last a lifetime.)
You have also answered your own question about the contemplation of suicide. It is not going to get you nearer to Sally Sue, because you believe that you are coming again in a next life as an Agony Aunt like me, while Sally Sue continues to leak away in heaven. Life as an Agony Aunt isn’t all champers and chocolates, or even beer and skittles, let me assure you. Stay where you are, would be my advice.
No, Billy Joe from Alabama, it is better that you get on with life down here and wait for the second or third week before you “do the deed” as you so quaintly put it. A little grope for the grapes will soon sort out the men from the boys (sorry, girls) if you must resort to this type of behavior in your efforts to forget Sally Sue. Enjoy your time in the Land of Smiles!
Dear Hillary,
I am an American and I want to buy a house here in Thailand, but I believe it is not possible for me to do this. Is this right? If so, is there a way around this problem because I really would like to do this.

Dear Joe,
I don’t know who told you this, my Petal, but they are wrong. Buying a house is very easy for foreigners here, it’s just ‘owning’ it that is a little more difficult. Let me explain, even though any reputable real estate person could give you this advice better than I can. ‘Buying’ means giving somebody (known as the seller) a pile of money, for which they will give you a pile of bricks sitting on a lump of dirt. To do this very quickly, I suggest you go to the nearest beer bar and ask to see one of the real estate consultants there who can be recognized by the fact they will invite you to “sit down please, sexy man”. This young lady will help you through the paperwork and Thai laws and statutes, and at the end of the time you will have managed to complete your dream of buying a house here in Thailand. The only catch is that the title deeds will be in her name, not yours, but up till the time of the title deeds being issued, you will also have a very faithful companion. After the issuance of said title deeds, things generally change somewhat. That gets us back to the differences between ‘buying’ and ‘owning’. Please go and ask for a reputable real estate agent, and not in the beer bars. By the way, you’re not from Alabama, are you?

Camera Class:  Look before you leap

by Harry Flashman

A few weeks ago, I wrote, “How many times when you are taking a photograph do you look at the background? If you are honest, then the vast majority of you will reply, “Never.” Unfortunately, the wrong background, fussy, cluttered or “jarring” is a sure-fire way to spoil what could have been a great picture. In your haste and eagerness to make the subject the “hero” you forget to look at the background, being so engrossed in making the foreground subject look good.”
This article spurred on Gordon, another of the local camera enthusiasts who came with the photo he took of his pride and joy Mercedes when it was new. I have published Gordon’s photo with the column this week. Take a good look. There was the car, sparkling and pristine, parked in front of a rubbish bin! Gordon even admitted that about 50 meters down the road there was a beautiful park he could have used as the backdrop! However, in the excitement of the moment, all he could see was the “hero” and did not see the background.
While we have Gordon’s Mercedes in front of us, a few pointers on car photography is in order. Photographing cars is a very specialized field, and there are professional photographers all over the world who just make their living snapping cars. I met one from Japan who used to shoot the car in his studio in Tokyo, then travel to different locations and shoot the background, finally putting the two elements together back in his Japanese studio. This was actually much more difficult than you would imagine, as he had to get the lighting on the car to match the lighting direction on the background location. The height of the camera from the floor in the studio had also to be same as the height of the location camera from the ground. He also used a very large plate camera to get his shots.
However, back to you and me with our new Yaris or whatever. If you stand and take the shot, you will make the car look small and insignificant. This is not what you want to portray. If nothing else, a motor car is a significant investment (or hole in the bank account).
For most cars, use a wide angle lens (around 24 mm is good, but 28 mm is fine), get down on your knees and shoot from the three quarter front position. Turn the steering wheel so that you can see some of the tread on the tyre and even turn on the headlights and flashers as well. This will make a dramatic shot.
Regarding exposures. If the car is a dark colour, underexpose by one f stop to get that rich depth in the paint. If the car is white, however, overexpose by one or even two f stops to make the white really white and not the 18 percent gray the meter wants to give you!
By the way, it seems that I am not the only one ringing the bell for film as the photographic medium, as I received this letter the other day from an enthusiast in Yasothon:
Dear Harry Flashman and Fans,
Analog Science Fict and Fact May 2006 ran a short story by Jerry Oltion, “Slide Show” (pages 88-94) about the demise of both slide film and bulbs for slide projectors. This generated quite o bit of talk at URL Analog Discussion Board, General Discussion: in the May 2006 Issue!
With regard to “Slide Show,” they discuss various kluges, contraptions, methods and lessons learned in using a digital camera to capture images from slides. The discussion also includes the comment that black and white is the only archival-quality photographic media.
Frank Lee in Yasothon
Further to this topic, I have just picked up a Nikon D50, courtesy of my photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt, to test against my Nikon FM2n. I will report further on these two cameras in the next couple of weeks.

Money Matters:  Private School + University = Better Pay for your Kids

Alan Hall
MBMG International Ltd.

Further to the recent flurry of recent articles eulogising the benefits of a private education and how to fund it, I came across a recent article that showed that there are quantifiable financial benefits later for those who attend a private school and a top university, whose graduates can earn over three times as much as their contemporaries. To put it another way, an independent school education then followed by a degree from a top college can add more than USD 100,000 per year to a person’s earnings.
The research was carried out on behalf of the UK government which paid the Economic and Social Research Council to do the study. Hundreds of children who started their secondary education in the 1980s were closely monitored. The Council came back with some astounding results:
Those who went through the privileged education system as mentioned above were FOUR times more likely to earn more than ฃ90,000 a year in their thirties than those who attended ‘new’ universities (ex-polytechnics); most of whom were paid less than ฃ30,000 per annum.
From those who were classified as the top earners over 85% had gone to private schools, whilst 61% of those being paid less than ฃ30,000 had gone to state schools.
The paper will be published later this year by London University. The students came from a variety of backgrounds. Most of them are doing well but the highest achievers were those who had gone through the British public school (private education) system and then followed this by going to a leading, established university.
The study showed that 41% of those that went to top, elite universities were in the highest social and occupational class. This compared to 28% of them who went to ‘old’ universities and only 8% who went to the ‘new’ universities. Researchers found that there was also a strong relationship between earning levels and the status of the university.
The study goes on to say that, “Meritocratic arguments could be used to explain the connection between schooling and earnings, as privately schooled respondents obtained higher A-Levels and more went to Oxbridge. However, the legacy of private education is also evident in the relative success of a small group who did not go to university, which suggests that an elite private education confers advantages other than high levels of academic attainment.”
Different research by the London School of Economics, conducted over a fifteen year period from the early eighties to the late nineties, found that the proportion of children from the richest families who had completed a degree by the age of 23 went up from 20% to almost fifty percent. In the same time period, the number of graduates from the poorest families only managed to increase from 6% to nine percent.
That’s the good news. The bad news that if you want your children to attain these heights then you are going to have to pay for it. The phrase, “Ready, Willing and Able” comes to mind.
Ready – Without doubt, “Knowledge is Power” and higher education is almost becoming a pre-requisite to acquiring a good job. It is the key to open the door to a professional career. Many parents will consider the cost of private education as a lifetime investment in their children’s future.
Willing – If you are living overseas then a private education may well be a requirement much earlier than may have been the case had you stayed at home in your own country. Whilst education is an investment for your children it does not come cheap and unless you planned for it could mean:
- Re-mortgaging the family home to pay the fees or borrowing from a bank.
- Depleting present savings and retirement accounts that should be for you in your dotage.
Able – Assuming that you start to save as soon as your first child is born (or, even better still, before), we estimate that educating each of your children will cost in the region of USD 300,000. This figure assumes that each child will commence nursery school at the age of two and will continue through to a university degree and education fees rise by an average of 6% per annum.
This is for private education here in Thailand and then foreign tertiary education.
The news is far worse if you want your child educated privately in somewhere like the UK. Most schools now cost about GBP 20,000 (USD 35,000) per annum and do not forget that these schools increase their fees each and every year. For example, in 2001 the fees for Eton were GBP 15,660 (USD 27,300) and they are now GBP 23,688 (USD 41,454). That is an increase of 51% in five years!
The earlier you start saving for all this then the less you will have to pay on a regular basis and any investment, however small, is better than none.
Think about the amount of time your children could spend in full time education. If you start them off at two years old and they want to be a doctor or lawyer then they will not be qualified until they are 24 years old. You may have to pay for a gap year as well so that is funding them for 23 years. As more and more couples choose to become parents later in life, that does raise the spectre of having to defer retirement until your youngest child completes his or her education so that you have the financial wherewithal to support them through this. We have clients whose youngest child was born while their father was in his 40s or 50s – add 23 years more of having to go to work isn’t always the retirement planning that they had in mind!
Also, it is not just a matter of having to pay the schooling; you will have to fund music lessons, field trips, school clothes and sports equipment, etc. All of this will be even more if your child becomes a full time boarder.
Despite all this, few would argue that a good education is the most valuable gift you can give your child. Even though the increase in the costs of private education has consistently outpaced inflation, its popularity has remained as strong as ever. However, children’s education is rarely seen high on the list of financial planning priorities. In fact, over 70% of parents suffer personally as they try to finance school fees from current earnings or short term savings. A child starting at school can coincide with the return to work of the parent who has stayed at home to look after them. Alternatively, you may find that a return to work is necessary to fund the school fees. This strain on your day to day finances or change to your pattern of living could be avoided by thoughtful planning.
With foresight, you can use an investment plan that will provide you with the growth potential to give you part or even all of the money you need to ensure that you have the ability to choose the best education for your children.
One of the most important things that you need when taking out an Educational Fee Plan is security. In other words, the knowledge that, irrespective of global or local economic conditions, your child’s financial needs will be met. These plans should be safe, not speculative. They should be based on guaranteed returns from substantial, reputable companies based in safe and secure jurisdictions.
These products should also offer the security that, if anything happens to you such as death, critical illness or long term unemployment then your child’s education remains provided for. For this reason, many educational fee programmes are actually a combination of investment and insurance.
Thus, it can be seen that your children will benefit greatly if you can afford to send them through the private education system. Go on, give your child a chance and do something now. In fact, if they do well by you they may even be able to pay for you in your dotage – now that is a good investment!
Carpe diem as they say!

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 don’t miss my lawn

by Scott Jones

I don’t have a lawn in Thailand. I have a rural bungalow tended by a landlord, overlooking a stunning mountain and a marsh that resounds with a cacophony of boisterous birds, some of which, judging by their calls, have had several affairs with monkeys. I don’t have to mow the marsh and the mountain takes care of itself. Now I can peacefully watch the sunset and pleasantly try to forget my decades as a Lawn Slave.
Ten years ago, after a long tour, I approach my newly purchased house to see the unmowed monster grass and dandelions grabbing at pedestrians running by. Minnesota had received enough rain to make a sidewalk grow, and the lawn is a little shorter than the elm tree on the boulevard. Finally, there is a true wilderness in the city! Soon the city sends a nasty letter demanding that I cut the grass yesterday or they’ll take it away from me, and if I ignore the warning, a couple of those big-bellied city employees with low-hanging jeans will come and mow my lawn while mooning the neighborhood.
The back yard was bad to begin with. Before I’d moved in, it was the eating and excreting area for several bull terriers — fertile ground for sure. I planted grass seed and jumped back. The grass had mutated into weeds you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, turning it into the vacant lot on the other side of the tracks where you wouldn’t want your kids to play.
John the Backyard Builder, a friendly college boy, had promised to till and sod the backyard, and although he had easily passed courses in the Fundamentals of Delivering Large Piles of Dirt and Barely Covering Them With Ugly Blue Plastic, Advanced Removal Of Half-Buried Chunks Of Cement Weighing Slightly Less Than A Chevrolet and Primitive Methods Of Hacking Apart Roots With Prehistoric Tools That Make Great Scrabble Words, he obviously flunked Time Management 101, so he only got around to tilling the soil. As the neighbors dug out their lawn mowers, they were undoubtedly shocked to see John roto-tilling my lawn. “Harvey, either he’s got the wrong machine out there, or that lawn mower is set way too low.”) All the dirt, assorted manure and peat moss the rain didn’t wash down the driveway had transformed the yard into a convincing replica of the mud bogs that caused the extinction of dinosaurs. If any sod had been laid, it sank out of sight. A few neighborhood children are still missing.
Two weeks later, right after my new sod was laid, the city sends the Tree Police to spray paint orange graffiti on the elm tree — an ominous circle and a big A-10 that meant Dutch elm disease. The entire tree is hacked into about ten pieces, each the size of an oil derrick, and dropped onto my baby sod that was suffering through a private battle with the developing weed roots reforming beneath it. I join the War of the Weeds because of a serious birth defect, a psychotic desire to have a lawn just like my mother’s, a perfectly groomed, textbook lawn, though I suspect hers is indoor/outdoor carpeting fertilized with hair gel, Geritol and green paint. The weeds have yet to break through the sod, but I can feel the trembling of angry pig weed roots ready to lift it right off the ground. My main attack is directed toward sinister weeds in the front yard whose massive root system originates somewhere in China. Late at night I hear them snickering to themselves, reproducing asexually or cross-breeding with my black plastic lawn bags. I try burning them, but the ashes sprout. The only way to get rid of them is to die and leave them behind.
Even if I succeed in removing every single weed fiber from my yard, my neighbor’s yard is a Regional Weed Distribution Center. Dave the Accountant seems to enjoy maintaining his vast army of weeds so he can practice counting to a billion. He’s one of these big bicep guys with arms the size of my deceased elm tree, and I don’t dare criticize his lawn care. If his name were Clyde or Dale, he could spend his life pulling a Budweiser beer truck.
In an uncontrollable fit of hereditary insanity, I actually start weeding his lawn while he is at work, hoping he won’t come home and bury me in my compost pile. Dave’s weeds are strong, like Dave. Leather weeds. You could tan their leaves and make belts out of them. I’m sure other neighbors see me ripping up Dave’s lawn and think, “If that’s what it takes to keep up with the Joneses, I think I’d rather just try to keep up with Dave.”
After several weeks of vigorous weeding that built impressive biceps on my thumbs and fingers, I could proudly announce that, in my front yard, there were no broad leaf plants taller than the White House Christmas tree, and only a few bare spots the size of Connecticut. If they can make silk flowers that last forever, why couldn’t I buy a silk lawn? And a big, silk elm tree to replace mine?
Luckily, though I live in Thailand where they could probably do it, I’ve escaped from the Mental Lawn Cult. Maybe I can still get a silk marsh with plastic mosquitoes.